08/30/2012 10:29 EDT | Updated 10/30/2012 05:12 EDT

Lowe's hires Ottawa lobbyist to aid in $1.76B bid for Rona that Quebec opposes

MONTREAL - U.S.-based Lowe's has hired an Ottawa lobbyist to help stickhandle its $1.76-billion takeover bid for Rona — an offer that is facing staunch opposition from the Quebec government.

Canada's lobbyist registry shows Robert Evershed of Prospectus Associates began working for the American home improvement retailer earlier this month.

The goal, according to lobbyist registry documents, is to secure the approval of the minister of industry for the Rona bid.

The Prime Minister's Office, Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Canada Economic Development for the Quebec Region are among the federal departments that Evershed will lobby for Lowe's.

The U.S. retailer approached Canada's largest home improvement company (TSX:RON) with an informal offer of $14.50 per share in July.

But the bid faces opposition from both Quebec-based Rona and government officials in the province, where a general election is being held Sept. 4.

The Quebec government, which is examining ways to thwart the Lowe's bid, has said the offer is not in the best interests of either the province or Canada.

It says Rona has played a strategic role in creating tens of thousands of jobs through store employees, suppliers and manufacturers in the province and in the rest of Canada, including 50,000 in Quebec.

Quebec's pension fund manager — the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec — increased its stake in Rona by two percentage points to 14.2 per cent after Lowe's made its takeover offer in July.

The Caisse has said Rona needed to improve its performance, but wouldn't weigh in on the takeover bid.

Headquartered in Mooresville, N.C., Lowe's has a small presence in Canada with only about 31 stores. Overall, Lowe's has 1,745 stores in North America, mostly in the United States.

The first Canadian Lowe's store was opened in 2007, several years after fellow American retailer Home Depot (NYSE:HD) had already established a significant presence in Canada. Home Depot currently has 180 stores across the country.

By contrast, Rona has more than 30,000 employees operating a network of nearly 800 stores under several banners as well as 14 hardware and construction distribution centres.