* Companies met CRTC head, signaled intention to try again
* Deal blocked in October over broadcast ownership
* New deal would involve selling some English assets -
* Astral shares rise 5.1 pct, BCE up 1.5 pct in Toronto
(Adds CRTC saying BCE and Astral met chair, signaled intention
to file new application)
By Euan Rocha and Randall Palmer
TORONTO/OTTAWA, Nov 16 Canada's BCE Inc
and Astral Media Inc have decided to go ahead with a
new, revised application for approval of their proposed
combination after the first one was rejected, the country's
broadcasting regulator said on Friday.
Earlier, Astral said it was in discussions with BCE, the
parent of Bell Canada, over revisions to their agreement that
would overcome regulatory opposition to their original.
Its statement came after a newspaper report saying the two
sides had already worked out a fresh deal to submit to the
regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications
The CRTC blocked BCE's C$3 billion ($3 billion) proposed
takeover of Astral last month, saying it would give too much
power to BCE - already the country's biggest telecoms company
and owner of numerous TV and radio assets.
On Friday, a CRTC spokesman said its chairman, Jean-Pierre
Blais, had invited BCE Chief Executive George Cope and his
Astral counterpart, Ian Greenberg, to explain the rationale
behind its rejection. During the meeting, the two executives
signaled their intention to try again.
"During those meetings they both indicated they would file a
(new) application," said the spokesman, Denis Carmel, stressing
that there was no pre-approval granted.
Even so, the explanation provided by Blais suggested they
would understand clearly where the original plan went afoul -
and, by implication, the kinds of changes that they would need
to make to gain approval.
"The timing and details of any such application have not yet
been determined. The company will keep its investors informed of
any significant developments in this respect," Astral said in
Astral's Toronto-listed shares were temporarily halted after
the newspaper report in the Globe and Mail. When the halt was
lifted, the stock shot up and closed 5.1 percent higher at
C$44.40. BCE closed up 1.5 percent at C$41.99.
Astral shares had closed 16 percent lower at C$39.51 on Oct.
19, the day after BCE received the CRTC decision. BCE asked the
federal government to intervene but was told the cabinet could
not overrule the regulator. BCE's offer was for C$50 a share.
BCE is seeking to buy Astral, its largest content provider,
mainly to strengthen its position in the Francophone province of
Quebec, where rival Quebecor Inc has a much bigger
Quebecor, Rogers Communications and other rivals
of BCE had said the original deal would have let it lock up more
programming for its vast media platform and would have given it
too much heft and pricing power.
In addition to winning approval of the CRTC, it would also
have to pass muster with Canada's antitrust watchdog the
Competition Bureau, which has yet to disclose its views on the
Last month, BCE extended the closing date on the proposed
deal to Dec. 16. The two companies have the right to further
postpone the outside date by an additional 30 days to Jan 15,
"There is no assurance that any transaction will occur or
occur with the terms and conditions currently contemplated,"
(Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Grant McCool; Editing by Bernard