Bell Canada Shareholders OK Privatization

BCE shareholders approve bid by Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan. CEO Michael Sabia announces plans to step down

Raymond McConville

September 21, 2007

2 Min Read
Bell Canada Shareholders OK Privatization

The deal to take BCE Inc. (Bell Canada) (NYSE/Toronto: BCE) private has cleared one more hurdle as shareholders overwhelmingly approved the $52 billion bid by the Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan. About 62 percent of all shareholders voted, and 97 percent voted in favor of the deal.

Before the vote took place, CEO Michael Sabia announced that he would be stepping down from the company once the privatization is complete. "Last spring, during the strategic review, I indicated to the chairman of the board that, should we reach an agreement which delivered real, compelling value to shareholders, it might be the right time for me to move on," said Sabia during the meeting. "I think this transaction delivers this value."

The bid still must win approval from both Canadian and U.S. regulatory agencies since the deal is backed by two American private equity firms. Sabia indicated that he expects the deal to finally close in the first quarter of 2008.

The shareholder vote did not come before major protest from smaller shareholders who complained that being forced to sell their shares would make them subject to capital gains taxes. (See BCE Holders Cry Foul.) Some also complained of no longer having one of Canada's long-term, safe-bet companies to invest in.

"Jesus Christ, this will never end," muttered BCE chairman Richard Currie after another shareholder rose to ask a question.

Recall that Bell Canada's parent company BCE agreed to be bought by the Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan on June 30. (See Bell Canada Goes Private.) The process began back in April when the company announced it was reviewing strategic alternatives. (See BCE in Privatization Talks.)

Canada's second largest telco, Telus Corp. (NYSE: TU; Toronto: T) eventually emerged as the favorite to land Bell Canada but dropped out of the bidding at the last minute. (See Telus, Bell Canada in Takeover Talks, Bidding for Bell Canada Heats Up, Telus Still a Factor in Bell Canada Buyout, and Telus Loses Interest in Bell Canada.)

— Raymond McConville, Reporter, Light Reading

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