Birch Hill lobbies Canada on investment in wireless carriers
By Randall Palmer
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Birch Hill Equity Partners Inc, a Canadian private equity fund, has registered to lobby Ottawa over investment in wireless carriers, lending credence to the idea it wants to buy two small wireless firms and elbow aside a possible move into the Canadian market by Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N: Quote).
Sources have tipped Birch Hill as a possible bidder for controlling stakes in small players Wind Mobile and Mobilicity, two newcomers in the market, with financial help from market leader Rogers Communications Inc (RCIb.TO: Quote).
Birch Hill registered with the federal Registry of Lobbyists (link.reuters.com/hym42v) on August 8 with plans to lobby the prime minister's office and the Industry Department on the topic "Telecommunications Policy Framework with regard to investment in wireless carriers in Canada".
The Toronto-based fund was not available to comment on Wednesday.
Canada's Conservative government and the Big Three Canadian phone companies - Rogers, BCE Inc (BCE.TO: Quote) and Telus Corp (T.TO: Quote) - are embroiled in an increasingly nasty and public dispute over telecom sector rules that the government says are designed to boost competition and the companies say favor Verizon's entry.
Verizon has declined to comment in detail on any plans for Canada, but sources familiar with the matter have said the U.S. company has offered to buy Wind Mobile for $600 million to $800 million, and is in talks to acquire Mobilicity.
Under current rules, the Big Three are not allowed to acquire the two small players' spectrum, as it was intended for new entrants.
Also, in an auction of spectrum next year, Rogers, BCE and Telus are each limited to bidding on one of four prime blocks of spectrum, whereas new entrants, including Verizon, may bid for two. Continued...