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BCE's Largest Shareholder Says Not Seeking A Deal With KKR

Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board is exploring its options as the largest shareholder of BCE, Canada's top telecommunications group, the pension fund manager said in a securities filing.

In a filing made with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday, Teachers' said contrary to media reports in late March, it was not pursuing a transaction in conjunction with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. to acquire BCE, which owns Bell Canada.

Teachers' said it had no current intention or plan to pursue such a transaction with KKR, a New York-based buyout firm.

"However, as the Issuer's (BCE's) largest shareholder, Teachers' is closely monitoring developments and is exploring its options," the pension fund manager said.

Teachers' said it owned 42.8 million common shares of BCE, or 5.3% of those outstanding.

Officials with BCE and Teachers' could not be immediately reached for comment this morning.

Reports in the Globe and Mail newspaper and the New York Times said Teachers' was in early talks with other investors to mount a takeover bid for BCE.

Citing people briefed on the discussions, the New York Times said Teachers' had reached out to Caise de depot et placement, Quebec's influential public pension fund manager, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, about pursuing a takeover of BCE.

The Globe, citing people familiar with the matter, said Teachers' had enlisted U.S. buyout firm Providence Equity Partners Inc. to explore a takeover of BCE that could amount to C$40 a share, or about C$32 billion in total.

BCE shares closed at C$32.94 on the Toronto Stock Exchange and at $28.23 on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday.

On March 29, BCE said it was not talking with any private equity investor about taking the company private or any other similar transaction.

Under Canada's laws, non-Canadians cannot own more than 46.7% of a Canadian telecom company.