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CanWest Partners With Goldman Sachs to Buy Alliance Atlantis

Canadian media company CanWest Global Communications has partnered with Goldman Sachs to acquire Alliance Atlantis Communications for approximately 2.3 billion Canadian dollars (US$1.95 billion).

The companies said Wednesday they have reached a "definitive agreement" for C$53 (US$45) per share in cash. The deal, which must meet regulatory approval, is expected to close by the summer.

CanWest and private equity firm Goldman Sachs Capital Partners have been in discussions with Alliance and its controlling shareholder, Southhill Strategy, which is owned by Alliance's executive chairman, Michael MacMillan, and Seaton McLean.

Alliance owns cable television specialty channels including Showcase, Life, Food and History TV in Canada.

The company's franchise of "CSI" crime dramas, in which Alliance Atlantis holds a 50% stake, is already available in the U.S. as a digital download to iPods, and Alliance is working with co-owner CBS and creators of the "CSI" television programs to develop mobile "CSI" episodes for worldwide sale.

"Today's transaction is consistent with CanWest's strategy to enhance its existing television business and expand its presence in the fast growing specialty television sector," said CanWest President and Chief Executive Leonard Asper.

Michael MacMillan, executive chairman of Alliance Atlantis, said the agreement provides great value for shareholders.

"The combination of CanWest's conventional and specialty television businesses and Alliance Atlantis' 13 specialty television channels creates an excellent foundation for future growth in both businesses," MacMillan said.