MONTREAL - Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B) says it is taking advantage of low interest rates to buy back a substantial interest in its operating arm from the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec in a transaction valued at $1.5 billion.
Under the deal, which involves the buyback of some 30.5 million shares, the Caisse's interest in Quebecor Media Inc. is being reduced to 24.6 per cent from 45.3 per cent.
Quebecor Inc. will increase its holdings in QMI to more than 75 per cent from less than 55 per cent.
Under the deal, Quebecor Inc. will buy back some 20.3 million shares of QMI held by the Caisse for an aggregate purchase price of $1 billion, payable in cash.
It intends to access financial markets to pay for the shares.
Quebecor will buy back an additional 10.2 million shares by issuing to the Caisse $500 million in subordinated convertible debentures, which are convertible into Quebecor Inc. class B subordinate shares.
"Our intention was to take advantage of the window of opportunity created by the favourable conditions on the debt markets to increase our interest in Quebecor Media," president and CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau said in a statement.
"We believe in the company's future. Repurchasing a portion of the Caisse's investment, while we continue our partnership, will allow us to benefit from the company's expected growth over the next few years."
Caisse president and CEO Michael Sabia said the Caisse is also "convinced of Quebecor Media's potential to create value."
"For this reason, we are retaining a substantial stake in the company. In our view, the conditions are right to rebalance our portfolio by divesting a part of the major position we held in the media and telecom sector."
Quebecor Media, the company behind Sun Media Corp, Videotron and others, is today one of Quebec's top five private employers. It has more than 12,000 employees in the province and an annual payroll in excess of $600 million.