Canadian Chamber: Allow hostile foreign takeovers

Wed Feb 8, 2012 1:26pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian Chamber of Commerce took issue on Wednesday with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's singling out foreign hostile takeovers of Canadian companies as something the government might consider blocking.

Harper said in an interview with Reuters on Friday that takeovers involving critical technology that the government has invested in, and hostile takeovers of key Canadian businesses, would not be in the country's interest.

Chamber President Perrin Beatty, issuing a study on barriers to Canadian competitiveness, said the government should help Canada attract needed international investment.

"I don't know why we would necessarily make a distinction between a hostile takeover and a purchase that's friendly, an investment that's friendly," Beatty, a former Conservative cabinet member, told a news conference.

Often the result of buying other companies is a stronger and better business, he added.

"The real issue for us in Canada is not how we block investment or how we block one company from taking over another, but rather what can we do to ensure that head offices are located in Canada more often, that we can grow Canadian businesses and that Canada is a magnet for investment," he said.

It is all right to carve out some exceptions for takeovers that could be blocked because they are deemed to involve strategic companies, Beatty said, "but those exceptions that we make should be few and far between...They should be clearly spelled out in advance."

Harper, a Conservative, said in the interview on Friday that he would like BlackBerry maker Research In Motion "continue to grow as a Canadian company" but said he would not comment on any hypothetical takeover bid that might be made for RIM.   Continued...

<p>The Canadian Chamber of Commerce President &amp; CEO Perrin Beatty takes part in a panel discussion during the National Summit at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan in this June 17, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook</p>