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BCE buyers finalize funding

4/07/2008 - 15:22

TORONTO (Reuters) - The buyers of telecoms company BCE Inc are sticking to the agreed C$34.8-billion ($34.1 billion) purchase price and have finalized the funding for the deal to go ahead, the company said on Friday.

BCE expects the deal, the world's largest leveraged buyout, to close by December 11. Its shares jumped 12.4 percent to C$39.50 early on Friday, reflecting investor relief that the deal was not being repriced and would close at the original price of C$42.75 per share.

The company, traditionally known for its generous dividend payouts, said it will not pay dividends on its common shares before the deal closes, although it will continue to pay dividends on its preferred shares.

BCE first said on Monday it would not pay its second-quarter dividend as it works to complete the deal.

Montreal-based BCE is being bought by an investor consortium led by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, Providence Equity Partners Inc, Madison Dearborn Partners LLC, and Merrill Lynch Global Private Equity.

But BCE shares have languished below the proposed purchase price since the deal was announced in June 2007 as investors fretted that the deal would be repriced or scrapped.

The concerns deepened after the credit crunch hit financial markets last year and banks' lost much of their appetite for risk.

The deal is being financed by Citigroup , Deutsche Bank , Royal Bank of Scotland and TD Securities, a unit of Toronto-Dominion Bank .

"The signing of the financing and credit agreements and the resolution of issues involved in funding this transaction are the essential milestones to closing with both the purchaser and the lenders," BCE Chief Executive Michael Sabia said in a statement.

Sabia will hand over BCE's reins next week to George Cope, a former Telus Corp executive who has been primed for top job at his one-time rival.

($1=$1.02 Canadian)

(Reporting by Lynne Olver; editing by Janet Guttsman)

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