BUSINESS

Astral had two other offers before accepting $3 billion Bell Canada bid

04/26/2012 07:48 EDT | Updated 06/26/2012 05:12 EDT
MONTREAL - Astral Media (TSX:ACM.A) says it received two other purchase offers before accepting a bid totalling $3.4-billion from BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE).

In a management information circular published Thursday ahead of Astral's annual meeting on May 24, the company said various firms, including BCE, told president Ian Greenberg they wanted to buy Astral.

The document states that Bell Canada and another unnamed company reiterated their interest at the beginning of January.

Astral chose a few weeks later to begin exclusive negotiations with Bell, which led to an initial offer of $46 a share, for a total of $2.57 billion.

Astral rejected the offer and Bell came back later with an improved bid.

Greenberg met the head of another company in early February and was presented with a provisional offer of acquisition that carried certain conditions.

Astral received yet another bid in March that offered more money for Astral's class A shares than the Bell bid.

That's what prompted Bell to improve its offer to $50 for class A shares, for a total of $2.8 billion and to $54.83 for class B shares, for about $151 million. It also offered $50 for all special shares. The total price tag of $3.4 billion includes the assumption of $380 million in Astral debt.

The circular also says Astral executives will get $45 million in special bonuses in recognition of their ''contribution'' over the past 15 years.

Greenberg will get $25 million of the amount.

The proposed deal includes Astral's radio and television stations across the country.

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.

Astral's pay TV services include The Movie Network and French-language Super Ecran, which have almost two million subscribers. It also has lengthy deals with U.S. cable channels HBO and Showtime for exclusive programming.

Astral's A shares rose two cents to close at $48.62 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday, while Bell stock fell two cents to $39.47.