Bell unveils benefits package for $3.38 billion Astral takeover

ASTRAL MEDIA INC. - Acquisition

Phone giant Bell is proposing a $200 million tangible benefits package to secure CRTC approval of its $3.38 billion takeover of Astral Media.

Bell also said it will sell 10 radio stations in five markets – Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa-Gatineau and Winnipeg – to comply with the CRTC’s common ownership rules, should it receive a green-light to acquire Astral Media and its extensive TV and radio station assets.

“Bell’s commitment to provide $200 million in additional funding for Canadian broadcasting initiatives builds on the outstanding contributions Astral has made to the industry, especially in the French-language market,” George Cope, president and CEO of BCE and Bell, said in a statement Tuesday.

The CRTC generally requires acquiring broadcasters to pay around 10% of the transaction price into a tangible benefits package to indicate how they will improve the Canadian broadcast system.

The upcoming public hearings into the Astral Media takeover will include bargaining over the value of the transaction, which includes a $3.38 billion price tag, or an equity value of $3 billion and $380 million in net debt.

Bell is putting the value of the broadcasting assets that are subject to tangible benefits at $2.4 billion, leading to the $200 million investment in the domestic broadcast system.

Broken out, Bell proposes spending $96 million to develop and produce indie Canadian TV programming of national interest, $61 million in radio benefits, another $40 million to make Canadian programming more widely available in Canada’s northern regions, and $3.5 million for Bell Let’s Talk Day, an initiative to combat and discuss mental health issues.

The benefits package, as it stands before the CRTC hearings, values Astral Media’s TV assets at 1.39 billion, and the radio station assets at $1.01 billion.

Image: Bell to acquire Astral Media Inc. George Cope, President and CEO of BCE Inc. and Bell Canada Ian Greenberg, President and CEO of Astral Media (CNW Group/ASTRAL MEDIA INC.)