Canadian telco rivals talk about possible deal

Canada's two largest telecommunications companies, BCE Inc. and Telus, are discussing the possibility of combining their businesses as Canadian pension funds and foreign investors bid for BCE, an Associated Press report said.

BCE disclosed the talks with its Western Canadian-based rival in a news release, the Associated Press report said.

BCE, the parent of Bell Canada, is Canada's largest telecom company; Telus is No. 2.

Telus said the combination would be an all-Canadian solution as foreign investors circle its rival, the report said.

Montreal-based BCE has three other potential bidders that are vying to take it private in what would be the biggest corporate takeover in Canadian history, it added.

The report said those suitors include buyout groups led by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Ontario Teachers Pension Plan Board and US private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management.

Analysts say it could sell for 32 billion Canadian dollars ($30 billion).

BCE has a market capitalization of about $29.45 billion, while Telus has a market cap of about $20.31 billion.

Telus had annual revenue of 8.8 billion Canadian dollars ($8.2 billion) last year and over 31,000 employees. It has 10.8 million customer connections including 5.1 million wireless subscribers, 4.5 million wireline network access lines and 1.1 million Internet subscribers.

BCE had annual revenue of 17.7 billion Canadian dollars ($16.4 billion) in 2006 and over 54,000 employees.

BCE said it has agreed with Telus to a mutual nondisclosure and standstill agreement on a non-exclusive basis while their talks proceed, the report said.