Bell Canada Races To Appeal High Court's Takeover Ruling

May 27, 2008 (01:05 PM EDT)

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Facing a "do or die" deadline of June 30 to pull off the largest buyout in history, Bell Canada (BCE) this week said it's accelerating the process by which Canada's Supreme Court could hear an appeal of a lower court's decision.

BCE reported Monday that the Supreme Court said in order to request a fast appeal, the company must file a request with the court by May 28 and that responses to that filing must be submitted by May 30. The court would then hear the appeal June 17, probably in time for a decision to be announced before the June 30 deadline. BCE said the deal is also dependent on the high court reversing a ruling by the Quebec Court of Appeal that said the takeover isn't fair to bondholders.

The court's ruling earlier this month threatens to block the $52 billion takeover of BCE by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and a group of U.S. buyout firms.

The Quebec Court of Appeal ruled on May 21 that the $52 billion buyout plan -- the largest buyout plan ever -- isn't fair to bondholders. The ruling immediately put the entire deal in jeopardy because higher courts aren't likely to have enough time to hear the case before the deadline imposed for finalizing the buyout.

BCE has said the Quebec court "rewrites Canadian law" as it mounts last -ditch efforts to see the deal accomplished.

In addition to the problems posed by the Quebec court decision, BCE has recently encountered financing problems, because the banks pledging to fund the takeover have signaled that they want to rewrite the provisions of the deal.

The buyout team includes the Ontario Teachers' pension fund, Providence Equity Partners, Madison Dearborn Partners, and Merrill Lynch Global Private Equity.