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TheStreet Open House

BCE Buyout Could Be Reworked

Shares of Canadian telecom giant BCE (BCE) fell Monday on a report that the $33 billion leveraged buyout deal was in danger of unraveling over financing terms.

The New York Times reported Monday that financing banks were scrambling to renegotiate a privatization deal for BCE, Canada's largest telecom operator and owner of Bell Canada. The banks are pushing for new terms that include higher interest rates and tighter restrictions, signs the buyers say show the banks are unwilling to fund the deal, according to the report.

BCE shares were recently down $2.04, or 5.3%, to $36.77 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, Merrill Lynch (MER), Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD) and private-equity firms Providence Equity Partners and Madison Dearborn Partners are in the group that agreed to the buyout in June 2007.

If the BCE deal were to be reworked, it would become the latest in a string of buyouts that were altered or scrapped following the credit crunch that led to tighter lending practices from financiers. Deals in place to take United Rentals (URI), PHH (PHH) and Sallie Mae (SLM) private were scuttled due to financing problems.

More recently, a leveraged buyout for radio operator Cumulus Media (CMLS) was dumped Monday after buyers failed to agree on terms for the deal.

Two days later, Clear Channel Communications (CCU) and private-equity companies Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital agreed to a new pact with a group of banks that had initially balked at fully funding the deal, settling on a purchase price of $17.9 billion, or $36 a share. That compares to the earlier buyout price that was set at $39.20 a share.

Citigroup (C), Deutsche Bank (DB) and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which are among the lead lenders in the BCE deal, were in the syndicate that forced a lower buyout price for Clear Channel.

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