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Cineplex rules itself out as buyer of Astral assets

File photo of Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob.

J.P. MOCZULSKI/REUTERS

Cineplex Inc. will not be a buyer of any Astral Media Inc. or BCE Inc. assets, regardless of what the companies put on the block to appease the regulators overseeing their $3-billion deal.

While the takeover has already been shot down once by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission due to competition concerns, the companies are now trying to win support by promising to reduce market clout through the sale of a number of television, radio and other media assets.

While the new submission is in front of regulators, details of the proposal have not yet been made public. This has set off a flurry of speculation about which companies could be interested in the assets – Rogers Communications has previously said it could bid for specialty television channels, while Cogeco Inc. is seen as a possible buyer of radio stations.

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Cineplex was named as a possible buyer by analysts following the deal, but chief executive officer Ellis Jacob said there's no way his company would venture into a new market in which it has little direct experience.

Astral owns a stake in The Movie Network, which shares a licence with HBO Canada. And while Cineplex is breaking into the television business through its Ultraviolet service, that is more of an on-demand movie rental and purchasing app than a television channel.

"I don't know where that idea comes from," he said of hearing his company's name linked to the deal. "No."

The Toronto-based theatre chain said it earned $51.7-million in its last quarter, compared with $25.7-million in the same quarter last year. Revenue increased 1.7 per cent to $281.4-million from $276.7-million.

Details of the BCE-Astral deal won't be made public until the CRTC launches a public consultation period early next year, which will eventually be followed by a public hearing.

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