BCE: Buyout Is On Track To Close in December

TORONTO (Reuters) – BCE Inc (BCE.TO: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz)(BCE.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), Canada’s biggest telecommunications company, reiterated on Monday that it still expects a C$34.8 billion ($27.2 billion) buyout to make the company private will close in December, suggesting the deal isn’t facing delays because of market turmoil.

In brushing aside a new lawsuit launched by a group of shareholders that seeks to have BCE resume paying dividends, the Montreal-based company repeated “the acquisition of the company is scheduled to close on or before Dec. 11, 2008.”

It has maintained since July that the deal would close by that date.

It was also in July that BCE, traditionally known for steady dividend payouts, first said it would suspend dividends on its common shares while it works to close the deal. On Monday it said the latest lawsuit is “completely without merit” and will be fought in court.

BCE is being taken private by a consortium of private-equity investors led by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan for C$42.75 a share.

However, BCE’s stock has consistently traded below that price on concerns that the deal could be delayed, repriced or abandoned because of the problems besetting the credit and equity markets.

BCE, its buyers, as well as at least one bank providing financing for the deal have repeatedly said the deal will close on schedule.

BCE shares fell 88 Canadian cents to C$34.67 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday morning.

($1=$1.28 Canadian) (Reporting by Wojtek Dabrowski; editing by Peter Galloway)