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TELUS reportedly in talks to acquire Mobilicity, plus Public Mobile is looking for a buyer

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Back in 2008 our government held a spectrum auction that ushered in new a slew of new carriers who all promised more wireless competition. At the time, Jim Prentice, former Minister of Industry, stated “Our government’s intentions are clear: to achieve lower prices, better service and more choice for consumers and business. We believe in relying on market forces to the maximum extent feasible because competition benefits consumers, and consumers benefit most when markets are as competitive as they can be.”

After eight weeks and 331 rounds the auction closed and raised a massive $4,254,710,327. This brought in WIND Mobile, Mobilicity, Public Mobile, and others. Monthly wireless prices have slightly come down and Canadians do have more choice.

The largest new entrant is WIND Mobile with over 600,000 subscribers, but it’s heavily known that they are looking for buyers. During the auction, Data & Audio-Visual Enterprises Wireless, known in-market as Mobilicity, won 10 licences and invested $243 million. In a report in the Globe and Mail today it was discovered that TELUS is seeking to purchase Mobilicity for a purchase price between $350 – $400 million. TELUS is interested in acquiring “all of the issued and outstanding shares in the capital of Mobilicity” and is “working expeditiously to negotiate and execute definitive agreements in respect of the Acquisition Transaction on an accelerated timeline.”

Mobilicity currently offers their unlimited talk/text/data plans in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary. Since they’re a private company they don’t need to share their subscriber numbers. Both TELUS and Mobilicity declined to comment.

In another turn of events in Canadian wireless, Public Mobile, the G-band wireless player who operates in Ontario and Quebec, is also seeking a buyer. In 2008 they invested a mere $53 million and the Globe states that Public has “hired bankers to find a buyer, and a small number of pension funds have taken a look at its books. The sale process started because OMERS Private Equity, one of the company’s backers, wants out.” Public is also a private company, but the last known subscriber number had them sitting at 200,000.

A recent study by the Convergence Consulting group estimated that the new entrants – Videotron, EastLink, Mobilicity, Public, WIND – will have 2.35 million wireless subscribers by the end of 2013.

Source: Globe

  • skullan

    And so, the dismantling of competition begins..

    • TheShader

      Is it dismantling competition, or the apperance of dismantling competition? If they aren’t profitable and the only thing they seem to be able to make money off is the sale of their assets, then they aren’t really competitive.
      Which isn’t to say they don’t drive down prices for consumers, but if it’s not sustainable, then it’s not competitive.

    • Eric Houstoun

      there are a variety of reasons why the companies might be looking to sell, it is unlikely as simple as them not being profitable. My guess is that they aren’t growing fast enough for their investors. It’s not fair to say what the state of their business is without looking at their books.

  • Kenny

    Ah crap.

    Grandfather clause better take effect if the sale goes through.

    • alphs22

      I have a feeling that due to the large difference in service and price between Telus and Mobilicity that your plan won’t be grandfathered. They probably will have a one-time credit or something of the like to transfer you over.

    • TP

      Telus can’t just kick out the subscribers to some other plan. Telus must keep offering the same plan and service until the subscribers themselves change to something else. That’s what Rogers and Bell had to do when they bought Fido and Virgin.

    • bobbfg

      They will keep the same “plan” but will stab you in the back increasing every potential fee which isn’t part of the plan. Such as roaming.

    • TP

      True, and that will drive many Mobi users with grandfathered plan to jump ship and sign 3 year contract under one of Telus plans. I’m just saying that Telus can’t just force Mobi users to change their plans, that’s all.

    • KiwiBri

      what! BELL owns Virgin?? fark!

    • TheShader

      Only if they keep the Mobilicity operations. If it’s a sale of assets and not subscriber base, then the existing customers simply get an “as of…. your service will no longer work and all outstanding balances will be refunded”, etc.
      They can do that if no conditions are put on the sale. That’s where government needs to protect consumers, but the system itself is mean to protect investors and lenders first, consumers are not as valuable unless the buyr wants to keep them or the government wants to protect them.

  • solidpig

    This is why we can’t have nice things in Canada.
    The government should step in and block the sale if they give a damn about competition.
    But we all know they don’t.

    • mjolnirxz

      and get rid of 3 year contracts.

    • TheShader

      Step in, block the sale, strand the Mobilicity customers and let no one use the assets… yeah that’s beneficial. If the gov’t steps in and blocks the sale the company doesn’t magically become profitable. And I don’t want the government wasting tax dollars to prop up these houses of cards. They can step in an regulate the terms of the sale to ensure current customer service/satisfaction levels (which might make it less attractive, but still likely sell) but that’s the extent to which they should stick their nose into it, they always mess things up if they try to prop things up or block things.

    • Eric Houstoun

      again @TheShader:disqus you can’t know whether they are profitable, unless you work for the company you can’t possibly know that (since they don’t publicly release their earnings as a private company). Furthermore what makes you think Telus would pay MORE than the company initially spent investing in it’s network if the company was hemoraging money, please tell me how that makes any kind of sense.

    • TheShader

      You want to redefine profitable, fine; then ‘profitable enough’.
      As for why TELUS or anyone would spend more than the company that initially invested in their network, there could be lots of reasons, the most obvious one being Spectrum value. In 2008 a new entrant pays for a small chunk of a resource the government makes widely available at less money for the entrants. The larger players pay more for more attractive portions of the spectrum, then 4+ years later with the explo-z-ion of data, suddenly that small chunk becomes more valuable to a company squeezed by lack of spectrum resource. Hence, the value becomes much more than the initial purchase price. It’s certainly not the bargain-basement customers they want, those are more trouble than they’re worth, as even Wind stated last year.
      The reality is that Mobilicity is a failing venture in a market awash in failing small players, all of whose exit strategy is to find a suitor to buy this courtesan who hears the music winding down on the future of the discount cell operator.
      You can argue the level of ‘profitability’, but it’s still throwing in the towel, so it’s obviously not profitable enough to remaining and active concern versus selling it off because there isn’t much more blood to get from that stone.

  • Carter Loose

    The last thing we need is less competition in the phone carrier business.

  • graze81

    NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! How in the blue hell does his help the so called “competition” in Canada? The gov’t HAS to block this!

    • socra

      No way! as much as I want competition, blocking the sale is the worst move possible! Who would invest in Canadian telecom industry if they knew their investment was not liquid? Sometimes firms get bought out. That’s life. What the government really needs to do is provide the new entrants with the means to succeed – like a set aside in the 700Mhz auction and better payment plans.

    • TomsDisqusted

      But this sale includes the transfer of lease to public spectrum – it is not just one company buying another. It is quite normal for governments to put conditions on the use and re-sale of spectrum in order to promote competition and benefit consumers – just not in Canada.

      Remember, the U.S. gov’t recently blocked the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile.

    • TheShader

      The harshest limitations likely expired after 3 years, similar to Shaw’s sale to Rogers, and I doubt Mobilicity has that much to offer other than a small chunk compared to the others. It likely would’ve helped Bell or Telus earlier when they both combined had less spec available than Rogers in the past. Now I dunno if it would just be add-on or roaming compatibility or something.

    • TomsDisqusted

      The subscribers and the spectrum are of little value. The primary value is in allowing them to eliminate/control a source of unwanted competition.

    • TheShader

      New entrants have shown no need or willingness to invest in opportunities that benefit from 700Mhz. The better thing to do would be to offer the companies who invest in large or rural deployments and offer the Ghz stuff to the new entrants who all have stayed within profitable honey-pots of city centres. The new entrants didn’t even expand to populated suburbs let alone sparse rural areas where 700 is better suited. Claw back spectrum from the big 3 if you must, but don’t waste 700Mhz on companies looking to simply stay in the top 10 cities and profit off local access.

    • graze81

      If you decide to shut your business down, thats your choice. This is different. This affects a market that is dominate by three compaines, who are working together to keep “competition” at a minimum and it doesn’t offer any benefit to the consumer.

  • Mariano Gori

    Say goodbye to competition boys! Telus buys Mobilicity, Rogers or Bell buys Wind and that’s all she wrote!!

  • Cam C

    Can’t blame telus for trying. The owners of mobilicity want out to save what money they can. Thats what happens when you try to ridiculously try to undercut the rest of the industry. Its not sustainable. Happened with fido. Wind has deeper pockets but once again, they’re in it to make money and the backers aren’t impressed. In this day and age people aren’t wont to see if their sinking ship will get fixed.

  • Mor

    Telus is a good brand and of course competition is good, but mobilicity and Telus never really competed to begin with.. its as if we were to compare a kia vs a bmw… both are cars but not necessarily competing for market share…

    Its tough in Canada for an outside wireless carriers to come in and succeed, they have to start by renting towers from one of the big 3 carriers which basically, turns them into a reseller for that particular carrier under a different brand, For the record Mobilicity has been renting towers from telus for YEARS now!! no real shock here..

    • TP

      I didn’t know they rented towers from Telus. I thought their in-coverage towers are their owns, and they use Rogers network for out-of-coverage area.

    • skullan

      Yes, Moblicity possibly has, because part of the last auction had placed regulations down saying that the new entrants can use the towers of the incumbents.

  • Jim – Rogers Rep

    Guys, when all three of these companies came in they knew and so did we that it was temporary, with the clause that the big three couldn’t buy any of the AWS carriers for X years.
    and right from the very start the only one that had any possibility of success was Wind. and they themselves have been seeking a way out for quite some time.
    However they likely will not be bought by any of the Big-Three, Wind is going to go for way too much for any of them to see worth it other than Bell, who had Solo Mobile until they realized the AWS providers weren’t any competition to them at all.(still likely won’t buy though.), Public is only competition to itself, thus unlikely to be sold to anyone presently in the industry, and Rogers owns Chatr who was created specifically as competition for the AWS providers.

    Fact is, the CRTC is owned by Bell, Telus and Rogers and in that order. if a sale could happen it likely will because as it stands even if one company bought all three they still wouldn’t have a monopoly.

    • Me Ted

      Except T-Mobile is a major player with an American subscriber base that exceeds the population of Canada. They’ll be looking very closely at Wind if they haven’t already.

    • hoo dat

      Correction: Bell dumped Solo because it was a complete and utter failure. But let’s just say, for arguments sake, Bell did drop Solo due to lack of pressure from the new entrants, specifically WIND, why then, is Chatr, created for the same reasons, still in existence? Your theory seems to fly in the face of reality.

    • Jim – Rogers Rep

      Solo wasn’t a Failure, it was a Fighter brand for bell to compete with Koodo and Fido, before they had full ownership of Virgin. Chatr exists because it is a Metro Provider in much the same way that Mobilicity and Public are, in that way they can compete without Rogers having to put money for it into markets like Sudbury or St. John’s.

      Don’t kid yourself though Chatr is not profitable.

  • Toby

    I rather see Wind, Mobilicity, and Public combine forces, and merge into one. Then they would stand a much better chance. They have talked about it in the past, but didn’t reach an agreement… and now they are all for sale.

    Go Canada – highest cellphone bills in the world!
    :(

    • Jim – Rogers Rep

      If they merged it wouldn’t be long before the greed set in. Plan costs are dictated by the purchasing public, if everyone really thought they were paying too much, these guys would have a much higher market share.
      Cost to value, to general public thinks they are getting screwed but still sees value in their services.

      For argument sake, I do think we pay far too much for our plans though. Way too much.

    • TheShader

      Merging makes no sense. There’s more overlap and waste there than between any of them individually and the major players. Someone like Shaw buying already established players rather than their failed attempt at a start-up makes more sense, but if they were serious about that, I think we’d see more in the Wind direction.
      As for our cellphone bills, they’re far from the highest in the world. They’re in the top half, top third even. But we haven’t been in the top 5 countries for cost in a few years, unless you cherry pick 1MB pay-as-you go (not pre-paid or typical post-paid) stuff that next to no users use.

    • Accophox

      Canada easily has some of the highest cost/lowest value cellphone plans. When you can get 600 mins/750MB/Unl text for 12 pounds in the UK (O2) or unl minutes/texts/2.5 GB softcap data for 60 in the states (T-mobile)… or a 1200min/unl texts/400MB plan for 138 HKD (~20 CAD) in Hong Kong.

      In “developed” nations, as far as value provided with our cellphone contracts go, we’ve got it like s**t. Do I need to go pull more plans out of other “similarly developed” nations?

  • Plazmic Flame

    If the Big 3 buyout the Little 3, we are going backwards in this industry….. back to horrible prices and contracts…

    • S2556

      We have yet to leave them in the first place!

    • Plazmic Flame

      That’s true, it was still happening when the Little 3 emerged but at least some had a chance to leave the prisons or break the chains, lol. If they go away, then there is no hope, there is nothing.

  • socra

    Does this mean they’re back in the CWTA? ;)

  • Adam

    I’m sorry the source for this is the Globe and Mail who is citing unnamed sources?

    • hoo dat

      The G&M have documents signed by Stuart Lyons et al confirming the Telus negotiations and the extension of those negotiations. The fact that Public is up for grabs shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone seeing how Alec/Alex Whatshisface maintained right from the get go that it was created to be sold. Over all the G&M has been fair in reporting about the new entrants, just because they report hard truths shouldn’t negate that they’re truths afterall.

  • aj

    The prices have come down by a lot and not little. With unlimited calling one can also do away with the landlines.I find it strange that people still go to Rogers,Telus and Bell to buy their tiny talk plans in comparison to what these smaller players are offering. LTE is the only advantage that the big 3 have over the smaller ones.

    • Cam C

      To be fair….if Telus does happen to buy out Mobilicity the mobilicity users may be able to actually enjoy some decent data speeds lol

  • demon5

    How many of the European carriers are willing to come to the Great White North and do a from scratch build of LTE? What? None?

    Oh the dilemma! I want the carriers to spend all sorts of cash upgrading their network to the latest and greatest but I don’t want to pay for it.

    Cellular networks are capital intensive to build. It is quite possible that new entrants into the Canadian market misjudge the consumers and end up in a never ending cycle of loss leaders as to make the business case infeasible.

  • mad

    well that didnt take as long as i thought it would..

  • canada is a monopoly

    our government is a slave to USA. that means slave to $$$$$$

    this deal will go through just how they cut s**t up for governemnt employees, doctors, teachers, postal workers, library workers.

    dont think your government cares for you. your a SIN number to them when you die its retired. thats all you are worth in reality.

    this deal is just another check mark that says F U to the people and Hell Ye to the pockets.

    welcome to modern day slavery. no need for negroes to be slaves anymore when we can have all of them slaves in their jobs and in their lives.

    to those who hated wind,mobilicity, public i hope you lose your jobs and cant afford to pay for your 70 or 80$ phone bills then maybe you will become grateful for what is their for those who are in poverty and savings for other things in lives.

    thanks canada, NEXT UP privatize healthcare like the master US (whip cracks)

  • terminaladdict

    Too many of these “reports” are coming out. Sounds more like FUD being spread by the big three to try and stop the bleeding of customers to the new entrants.

  • Thomas C. Riddell

    I hope Telus dose buy them we need more then Big 3 in canada

  • WizardAmerica

    I like mobilesyrup, but I recommend Ian Hardley-cantadd go back to second grade. Wind Mobile with talk text & data is less than half what I was paying robbers for a crummy minutes plan with no data; so why would I believe anything you write?

    • hoo dat

      Why wouldn’t you believe it? Just because you’re saving money doesn’t mean that all is sweetness and light in WIND-World. The truth of the matter is that WIND is $1.7B in debt even after Orascom’s interest forgiveness. Their current controlling partner, VimpelCom, has made it known that WIND is up for sale and has about 3 interested parties to date. This shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone who’s paid the slightest attention to the news over the last couple of months.

  • pookieman

    This is such a shame if it’s true.. the people that are going to lose out are the customers.. ultimately the big three are too big to fail!

  • kroms

    Where is the GOV of Canada in all of this ? What are the CRTC doing about this ?
    Oh that is right , NOTHING !!! Canada and it’s politicians and along with it’s regulators should be ashamed.

    Supporting the big 3 and having a plan with them just continues to harm us ALL .

  • avow

    NOOOOOO FML

  • Eddisonlane

    Please God no.

  • Victor

    New entrants with Iphones for sale change everything. A huge percentage of the market is unavailable to Wind and Mobi, now its opening up. No wonder there is interest…

  • BlueAce127

    Why can’t the Big 3 just leave the rest alone? I hope Mobilicity and WIND Mobile become successful in the future. Their prices for plans are very affordable. Not everyone is filthy rich…

  • Sweet

    You’re right. Bell, Rogers and Telus give you a 10% discount on your monthly rate if you bring your own phone. If you’re with them on month-to-month and you bought your phone outright, then you should give them a call to see about getting that discount.

    I haven’t checked the other carriers.

  • Sweet

    Reread your previous message and think about it.

    Secondly, there is a difference between collusion and simply not competing. There’s no evidence or even indication of collusion. Choosing to charge the same price as your competitior is simply a matter of not competing, unless you have some kind of proof or indication that the carriers were getting together to arrange it.

    There’s nothing wrong with wanting things at affordable prices — I did say people should live within their means. My issue with the ban-3-year-contracts whining is that the people calling for it think that contracts are their only option, which is not true.

    • mjolnirxz

      What about my previous message? Because I was responding to your judgmental and confrontational comment in the first place? You don’t like it either too, yes?

      Regarding proof, if there were, obviously it would be addressed. Sure I will give you the innocent until proven guilty argument, but despite this it is my belief that collusions exist in our mobile industry. You of course are free to believe otherwise. Not once though did I mention it was the only option, i simply detest it. You are putting words in my mouth.

  • Sinned72

    Contracts are somewhat more optional today than say 5 years ago but not necessarily always an option. I bought an iPhone 3G in 2008 on a 3-year not because I wanted to or I could not afford the outright purchase but because I wanted that device and that was the only way to get it. Earlier this year, I was pondering a BB Z10 and when I finally went for I was told 2 year contracts only, that was a deal breaker so i did not buy.

  • Cody Williams

    it is 100% optional. Your decision, your choice, your option. You can buy cheap prepaids for $30 and then take that phone and put it on a plan and get 10% of all your bill from koodo, virgin, or fido. It is not their responsiblilty to freely give you a $700 phone.

  • Cody Williams

    you do not HAVE to sign a 3 year plan. Look at all the big 3 and smaller ones even. the 3 year contract is OPTIONAL.

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