Canadian Industry Minister James Moore said there’s been no change in his government’s policy of seeking to bolster competition in the country’s wireless phone market.
In a statement posted on his website, Moore said the government’s policy has been “clear,” and “liberalized” investment in the industry has meant lower prices for consumers.
Moore, who was appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper July 15, has been facing pressure to alter policies that may ease the market entry of U.S. wireless firms such as Verizon Communications Inc. Moore met with senior Canadian mobile-phone executives July 29 in Ottawa to discuss the matter, according to a person familiar with the meetings.
“We want all regions of Canada to benefit from competitive market forces, which is why more progress must be made,” Moore said in the statement. “We will continue to stay the course by ensuring Canadians benefit from a competitive telecommunications industry.”
Investors have punished the shares of the three largest wireless providers, partly due to speculation that U.S. carrier Verizon may enter into Canada’s market. New York-based Verizon said June 18 that it is interested in acquiring Canadian carriers such as Wind Mobile.
In a July 25 statement, BCE said the government’s decision to block Canada’s largest phone companies from buying smaller domestic competitors will allow Verizon to acquire those businesses at “cut-rate prices,” echoing concerns of Rogers Communications Inc. and Telus (T) Corp.
Other policies that will unfairly benefit Verizon include the decision to reserve airwaves for new entrants and rules that force incumbents to offer their networks for use by competitors, BCE said.
In an interview with the Toronto Star published July 26, Rogers’ vice-president for regulatory affairs said Canadian government officials traveled to New York in a bid to lure Verizon to Canada’s phone market.
Moore’s predecessor, Christian Paradis, had said he would seek to establish a fourth major operator in all the regions of the country, prompting him in June to block Telus’s purchase of smaller rival Mobilicity.
“Our government’s telecommunications policy was not created overnight,” Moore said in the statement today. “Our policy has been clear and remains unchanged.”
BCE’s stock closed today down 41 cents, or almost 1 percent, at C$42.55 in Toronto, extending to 12 percent its decline since it touched a 2013 peak on May 22. Telus fell 59 cents, or 1.9 percent, to C$31.21 today, and is down 17 percent since May 22. Rogers (RCI/B) shares have lost 22 percent since its year-to-date top April 10, and closed today at C$41.04, a drop of 85 cents, or 2 percent.
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