BCE Sells SkyTerra Stake Following Harbinger Buyout

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PARIS — BCE Inc. of Montreal has sold its minority stake in mobile satellite services provider SkyTerra Communications for $110.5 million in a deal that followed the purchase of SkyTerra by U.S. hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners, BCE announced April 6.

BCE, Canada’s largest telecommunications provider, had long said it was seeking a way to monetize its longstanding investment in SkyTerra and its predecessor company, Mobile Satellite Ventures. SkyTerra is developing a mobile-broadband network using satellite and terrestrial broadcast links, a business that BCE has said is outside its core interest.

“The sale … is a perfect example of BCE’s commitment to eliminate holdings in businesses that do not enhance the execution of Bell’s strategic imperatives,” BCE and Bell Canada Chief Financial Officer Siim Vanaselja said in an April 6 statement. “The proceeds of such transactions support Bell’s strategy to invest in broadband network and service expansion while achieving a competitive cost structure.”

BCE had acquired its 22.5 million shares in SkyTerra in 2007 in exchange for BCE’s ownership stake in Mobile Satellite Ventures. New York-based Harbinger’s acquisition, which was effective March 29, offered $5 per SkyTerra share.

That represented a 56 percent premium over where SkyTerra stock was trading before Harbinger’s September announcement of the acquisition offer, but far below the stock’s value between 2005 and 2007, when Wall Street speculation over the value of radio spectrum held by mobile satellite providers like SkyTerra was at its peak.