Bell-Astral Layoffs? Acquisition Could Mean Head Office Job Cuts Due To Overlap, Analyst Says

Bell Astral Layoffs

First Posted: 03/21/2012 1:28 pm Updated: 03/21/2012 4:37 pm

MONTREAL - Head office job cuts are expected to result from telecom giant BCE's $3.4-billion deal to acquire Montreal-based specialty broadcaster Astral Media (TSX:ACM.A), an analyst said Wednesday.

UBS analyst Phillip Huang said there will be duplication at the two head offices, though he did not quantify how many cuts could come as a result of the merger.

"We believe there is significant function overlap between Bell Media and Astral's head offices, and expect substantial synergies," Huang wrote in a report.

BCE's proposed acquisition of specialty television and radio broadcaster Astral media aims to create a media powerhouse that provide digital content to consumers online on their personal computers and tablets and on mobile devices like smartphones as well as traditional TV screens.

In terms of jobs, BCE (TSX:BCE) has said there would be some duplication, but has not been specific about possible cuts.

"There is clearly some duplication just in terms of the fact that we're both public companies," BCE chief executive George Cope told a news conference about the transaction last Friday.

"We'll deal with some of the corporate parts and have to deal with some of the public costs going forward, but generally this is really about a growth story," Cope has said.

Astral has about 460 employees at its head office in downtown Montreal. The company has a total of 2,800 employees in Montreal, Toronto and a number of other Canadian cities.

Astral-owned pay television channels include The Movie Network, which carries HBO and Showtime series, and Family Channel, which will allow Bell push that content across multiple devices to attract more customers and advertisers and sell the content to other providers.

Queen's university marketing professor Ken Wong said any job losses would depend on how much integration there is between the two companies.

Two vice-presidents of finance wouldn't be necessary, for example, Wong said.

"The more integrated they become, probably the greater the synergy opportunities are available — staff reductions," Wong said from Kingston, Ont.

But Astral's billboard and digital advertising division and the operation of its French-language radio stations could very well be left as they are, he added.

Ian Greenberg, chief executive of Astral, has said the leadership of Astral's francophone assets in Quebec is expected to remain in the province.

"I don't think we're going to have any movement to Toronto," Greenberg told the news conference.

Astral has a number of French-language radio stations in the province.

National Bank Financial analyst Adam Shine said the move to acquire Astral will allow Bell to better compete against rival Quebecor Inc. (TSX:ABR.B) in French content across multiple platforms.

"The deal significantly alters Quebec's media landscape by creating a powerhouse in the province and a leader in French content against a strong competitor in Quebecor," Shine wrote in a research note.

But Shine said as a result of the acquisition, BCE will have to sell radio stations in some markets to due ownership limits set out by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

Astral is Canada's largest pay and specialty TV broadcaster and owns 84 radio stations in 50 Canadian markets and 24 television services. It is also the third-largest outdoor advertising company and has a stake in the country's only subscription radio service, XM-Sirius Canada.

In 2010, BCE bought the rest of the CTV assets it didn't already own in a bid to broadcast the network's programs not only on television but also on computers, tablets and smartphones, a strategy its competitors Rogers (TSX:RCI.B) and Quebecor Inc. are also pursuing.

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  • Canada's 7 Media Giants

  • Postmedia - $1.1 Billion

    Postmedia was born in 2010, when the bankrupt Canwest media chain was broken up. A consortium led by then-National Post CEO Paul Godfrey bought Canwest's newspaper assets, including the National Post, Ottawa Citizen and Calgary Herald, as well as both English-language dailies in Vancouver.<br> <br> Pictured: Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>

  • Torstar - $1.48 Billion

    Torstar's flagship property is the Toronto Star, Canada's largest newspaper. It also owns the Metroland chain of weeklies and the internationally popular Harlequin, publisher of pulp romances.<br> <br> Pictured: The Toronto Star building in downtown Toronto.<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>

  • Shaw - $4.74 Billion

    Western Canadian cable TV giant Shaw entered the media big leagues with the 2010 purchase of Canwest's broadcasting assets, including the Global TV network. The company was founded by Jim Shaw and is still controlled by his family.<br> <br> Pictured: CEO Brad Shaw<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em><br> <br> <em>CORRECTION: An earlier version of this slide stated that Shaw had purchased Canwest's newspaper assets. It only purchased the broadcasting assets. The company had backed out of an earlier attempt to buy three CTV stations.</em>

  • Quebecor - $9.8 Billion

    Founded by Pierre Peladeau and run by his son, Pierre-Karl Peladeau, Quebecor owns the Sun Media and Osprey newspaper chains, as well as cable provider Videotron, Quebec TV network TVA, and a number of publishing houses.<br> <br> Pictured: Pierre-Karl Peladeau<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>

  • Rogers - $12.1 Billion

    Founded by Ted Rogers, Rogers Communications is a major player in cable TV and wireless services. The company controls Rogers Media, which operates 70 publications, 54 radio stations and a number of TV properties including CityTV and the Shopping Channel.<br> <br> Pictured: CEO Nadir Mohamed<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>

  • Woodbridge (Thomson Reuters) - $13.8B

    Woodbridge is the holding company owned by the billionaire Thomson family. It controls 55 per cent of Thomson Reuters, one of the world's largest news services organizations. Woodbridge's revenue is not reported, but Thomson Reuters reported revenue of $13.8 billion in 2011.<br> <br> Pictured: The late Kenneth Thomson, company chairman, in Toronto in 2003.<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>

  • Bell Canada (BCE) - $18.1 Billion

    BCE is one of Canada's largest corporations, and owns telephone, Internet and TV infrastructure. Its subsidary Bell Media purchased the CHUM group of radio stations in 2006, and Astral Media in 2012. The company also controls CTV, making it a dominant media player in Canada.<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>

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Filed by Daniel Tencer  |