BCE Makes $1.58 Billion bid for Canadian TV Network - TheStreet

Updated from 10:17 a.m. EST

Canadian telephone company

BCE

(BCE) - Get Report

made an unsolicited $1.58 billion all-cash takeover bid Friday for

CTV

, Canada's biggest publicly held television broadcaster.

BCE, Canada's largest telecommunications company, said it wanted to buy CTV to acquire Canadian local and national content for the joint-venture Web portal the company has set up with

Lycos

(LCOS)

called Simpatico-Lycos.

Jean C. Monty, president and chief executive of Montreal-based BCE, said the company's Web strategy in Canada calls for more original and distinctive content, which ownership of CTV would provide.

"CTV has one roof under which we are finding everything we are looking for," Monty said in a conference call with reporters Friday. "We think this is the best property for our intentions."

Of particular interest is CTV's local news and sports programming, Monty said. "Sports and news to us is critical as a differentiator."

In March, CTV agreed to buy most of cable company Netstar Communications in a deal that would give it control of Canada's two nationwide cable sports channels. That agreement is awaiting approval by Canadian regulators, who are expected to rule by the middle of next month. BCE said its bid is contingent on approval of the Netstar deal.

A CTV spokesman said the Toronto-based company would not comment until after its board meets to discuss the bid sometime in the next several days. Monty said Friday that BCE had held talks with CTV management over the last several weeks. "They've decided to take a very independent view of the approaches being made to them," Monty said.Monty said BCE has laid out a "welcome mat" to CTV's current management should the deal go through.

The proposed acquisition is for C$38 per share, or C$2.3 billion. CTV shares surged C$7.20 Friday to close above that bid at C$38.45 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

BCE shares closed down 3 1/8, or 2.7%, at 111 11/16 on the New York Stock Exchange.

CTV owns one of Canada's three national networks, and its programming lineup includes highly rated shows from the U.S. such as "ER" and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." Monty said BCE has budgeted some $230 million to help develop more original content for CTV should the deal go through.

He was quick to say that BCE's content strategy is largely limited to Canada. "You can't look at us having aspirations to go after the big global content plays," he said. "Our play is very much a Canadian play."

BCE said the proposal is conditional on 50% of common shares being tendered to the offer, approval by Canada's telecommunications regulatory agency, agreement with CTV over an Internet distribution arrangement, and the abandonment of CTV's poison pill plan.