Shareholders of Astral Media Inc signed off on telecom company BCE Inc’s acquisition of the Montreal-based content provider on Thursday, leaving only regulatory hurdles in the way of the $3 billion deal.
The purchase could attract close scrutiny from regulators, however, given BCE’s growing heft as a broadcaster since buying CTV, Canada’s largest private broadcaster.
BCE, the parent of Bell Canada and Canada’s largest telecom company, is buying Astral to lock up more programming for its media platforms and expand its presence in French-speaking Quebec.
It has already said it will sell some of Astral’s radio stations after the purchase so the combined company does not exceed the maximum number of stations allowed per market.
Astral’s television portfolio includes the Movie Network and HBO Canada, as well as French-language Super Ecran and Canal Vie, among more than 20 specialty cable networks and pay-TV channels.
More than 99% of the votes cast by each of Astral’s three classes of shares were in favor of the acquisition, which Astral’s board had recommended.
The deal must still be approved by Canada’s telecom and broadcast regulator and its competition watchdog. Astral expects the deal to close in the second half of 2012.