Quebecor Inc., owner of the Videotron wireless carrier, bought radio spectrum outside its home province of Quebec, increasing its ability to expand nationally or team up with another operator.
The company, based in Montreal, spent C$187 million in a government auction for 2500 megahertz spectrum, which can help carriers handle data-heavy smartphone traffic and service users in rural areas, according to results posted Tuesday by the Industry ministry. Telus Corp. paid C$478.8 million, BCE Inc. spent C$29 million and Rogers Communications Inc. paid C$24.1 million, to help net the government a total of C$755.4 million.
Quebecor, which only operates in Quebec and northeast Ontario, bought airwaves in Ontario, Alberta, Quebec and British Columbia, following a similar purchase in another auction last year.
“For the spectrum we have acquired in English Canada, we are still analyzing various options that hold out prospects of very attractive returns,” Chief Executive Officer Pierre Dion said in a statement.
Dion said last year he would expand under the right circumstances, possibly through a partnership with another carrier. Quebecor and Wind Mobile, the brand name of Globalive Wireless Management Corp., are working to chip away at Rogers, BCE and Telus, which together control 90 percent of the market.
“Incumbents have a completely dominant position and new entrants have to find a way to cooperate,” Wind Mobile Chairman and founder Anthony Lacavera said in a phone interview. “That could mean M&A, that could mean strategic partnerships, it could mean anything.”
Lacavera declined to comment specifically on the possibility of Wind and Quebecor striking a partnership.
“By acquiring more key spectrum across Canada, Videotron is effectively increasing its bargaining chips to negotiate a partnership with Wind in the future,” Phillip Huang, an analyst with Barclays Plc, said in a note to clients.
Quebecor shares fell 1.9 percent to C$31.73 at the close in Toronto. The stock is little changed this year.