UPDATE 3-Canada wireless sale nets C$5.27 bln; Quebecor makes splash

Wed Feb 19, 2014 7:57pm EST
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By Randall Palmer and Alastair Sharp

OTTAWA/TORONTO Feb 19 (Reuters) - Canadian telecommunications companies paid a record C$5.27 billion ($4.78 billion) in an auction to secure wireless airwave licenses, the federal government said on Wednesday, as a new national challenger emerged from Quebec.

The stronger-than-expected result was a windfall for taxpayers and a welcome outcome for the ruling Conservative party, which has made pro-consumer wireless policies a key plank of its 2015 re-election strategy.

The high prices will likely be viewed less positively by shareholders of the country's major telecom companies and could weigh on their shares when the market reopens on Thursday.

"To be quite frank, I thought this would be a much more sedate auction with people sitting on their hands, it turns out to be not so," said Iain Grant, managing director of telecom consultancy Seaboard Group.

Market leader Rogers Communications Inc was by far the biggest spender, paying out C$3.29 billion, or more than 60 percent of the total, to grab a so-called prime block in every region of the country except its three remote northern territories.

But it was Quebecor Inc's Videotron that made the biggest splash at the auction, as the regional cable and wireless company expanded its reach outside its home base in the mostly French-speaking province of Quebec.

The two other major national players, BCE Inc's Bell and Telus Corp, also scooped up large chunks of the 700 megahertz spectrum, which is valued for its ability to carry a signal over long distances and to penetrate buildings, making it useful for both urban and rural areas.   Continued...