By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO, Dec 9 (Reuters) - The court-appointed monitor for struggling Canadian wireless startup Mobilicity has extended the deadline for suitors to bid for the company by a week to Dec. 16, a regulatory filing shows.
Bidders for the Toronto-based startup, which filed for court protection from its creditors earlier this year, now have until noon next Monday to submit their offers in the court-supervised auction, according to a document posted on the website of monitor Ernst & Young Inc.
Ernst & Young said it extended the deadline following requests from several bidders.
Mobilicity, formally known as Data & Audio Visual Enterprises, offers lower-cost unlimited talk and text plans to fewer than 200,000 customers, mainly in several of Canada’s biggest cities. It had previously agreed to sell itself to Telus Corp, one of Canada’s dominant wireless providers.
But the federal government twice blocked the sale of Mobilicity to Telus on the grounds it would create an undue concentration of wireless spectrum ownership.
The largest of Mobilicity’s creditors, private equity firm Catalyst Capital Group Inc, wants the startup to merge with Wind Mobile, the biggest of the new players in the Canadian mobile market, and would put resources behind such a move, a Catalyst spokesman said on Monday.
Wind, the brand name of Globalive Wireless Management Corp, has entered the court process and is assessing Mobilicity’s value, Chief Executive Anthony Lacavera said last week. Globalive is controlled by Lacavera, with backing from Europe’s Vimpelcom Inc.
Lacavera did not disclose how much his company might be willing to bid for Mobilicity, but it is seen as unlikely to offer as much as Telus, which bid C$380 million ($357 million) in its first offer.
Globalive, however, is considered more likely to receive a green light from Ottawa, which is eager to see small players compete with the Big Three providers that dominate the market.
Telus, BCE Inc, and Rogers Communications Inc control a combined 90 percent of the Canadian wireless market, and hold roughly 85 percent of the spectrum used to send mobile voice and data.
Mobilicity’s spectrum, the airwaves mobile operators use to transmit voice and data services, is seen as its most attractive asset.
Mobilicity paid C$243 million for those airwaves in a 2008 auction in which the government set aside some spectrum for new entrants.
Another of the new entrants in that 2008 auction, Public Mobile, has already been acquired by Telus.