(Corrects reference to timing of regulatory hearing in 7th paragraph to ‘next month’ instead of ‘next week.’) (Adds comment from Ontario Teachers’ spokeswoman, updates share price)
TORONTO, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Shares of BCE Inc (BCE.TO), Canada’s biggest telecom company, continued to trade well below the offer price in its C$34.8 billion ($33.8 billion) buyout as investors remained worried the deal may be repriced, abandoned or further delayed.
The buyer group, which includes the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Providence Equity Partners, Madison Dearborn Partners and Merrill Lynch Global Private Equity, has offered C$42.75 a share to take the company private.
However, its shares were at C$36.57, down 44 Canadian cents in afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, after dropping to as low as C$35.06 during the session.
That is despite repeated assurances from both BCE and Teachers’ that the deal remained on track.
A BCE spokesman said on Thursday the company is still “looking forward to closing the deal” in the second quarter.
A Teachers’ spokeswoman said the pension fund would not comment on speculation.
“Our preoccupation right now is the CRTC hearings,” spokeswoman Deborah Allen said, referring to Canada’s federal telecoms regulator, which will study the deal next month.
As well, Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) Chief Executive Ed Clark said this week that he was still happy with his bank’s part in financing the BCE deal.
“I know everyone stews and worries about it. I would like to tell you that I’m stewing and worrying, but I’m not,” Clark said at a conference of bank CEOs on Tuesday.
“I was comfortable when we did it the first place, and I’m just as comfortable today.”
TD is providing C$3.8 billion in financing for the deal, composed of a C$500 million equity bridge and a C$3.3 billion credit facility, which the bank itself has acknowledged is a “relatively large underwriting.”
A wide variety of rumors has circulated regarding obstacles to the BCE takeover, ranging from angry bondholders blocking the takeout to, more recently, Merrill Lynch pulling out after suffering huge losses on U.S. subprime mortgage bets.
BCE had hoped to close the deal in the first quarter, but those expectations were later pushed back to the second because of the timing of the regulatory hearing.
$1=$1.03 Canadian Reporting by Wojtek Dabrowski and Lynne Olver; editing by Rob Wilson