Canada PM wants RIM to grow as "a Canadian company"

Fri Feb 3, 2012 5:54pm EST
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By Randall Palmer, David Ljunggren and Janet Guttsman

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's prime minister drew an apparent line in the sand on foreign takeovers on Friday, saying he wanted to see BlackBerry maker Research In Motion grow "as a Canadian company" and questioning whether hostile takeovers of key domestic firms are in the country's best interests.

In an interview with Reuters, Stephen Harper declined to speculate on how the government might react if a foreign firm put in a bid for hard-pressed RIM. But he singled out hostile takeovers and bids for what he described as "critical technology" companies as ones that the government might block.

"I can't make comments to you that would prejudice any kind of a bid, especially one that is completely hypothetical and may not happen," he told Reuters in response to a question about a possible foreign bid for RIM.

"But RIM, as you know, is a strong Canadian company. It's been an important part of the Canadian business landscape, and obviously we want to see that company succeed and continue to grow as a Canadian company."

RIM shares have slumped in recent years as the company's signature BlackBerry smartphone has lost ground to popular new rivals from the likes of Apple and Google. There has been considerable speculation that RIM could be sold, or broken up into valuable parts.

Speaking in an interview in his wood-paneled office in the heart of snow-covered Ottawa, Harper insisted that his Conservative government is still open to foreign investment, and noted that it had vetoed only two would-be takeovers. But not every foreign bid is good for Canada, he said.

"Takeovers of critical technology that the government's invested in, or ... hostile takeovers of key Canadian businesses, are obviously something that I think is widely understood is not in this country's interest," Harper said.

Under Canadian law, the government has the right to determine whether foreign takeovers over a certain size may go ahead. Its decision is based on whether the bid is of net benefit to Canada.   Continued...

<p>Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 1, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>