BCE Inc plans to acquire Astral Media in a $50-a-share cash-and-stock deal putting the price tag at $3.38 billion.

The acquisition, announced on March 16th, will strengthen BCE's telecommunications assets in Quebec and drastically improve its competitive position against other rivals, notably Quebecor.

BCE CEO George Cope said in a statement: "Bell's acquisition of Astral firmly establishes our company as Québec's media leader. Astral's strong financial position enables Bell to further accelerate our significant investment in broadband innovation across Québec."

Cope added that the Bell team would now be better able to control rising content costs in French-language media and benefit from "cross-platform innovation and advertising packages spanning digital, TV, radio and out-of-home advertising.”

Astral, which employs 2,800, is Canada's largest radio broadcaster with 83 radio stations nationwide including Virgin Radio and EZ Rock as well as owner of several specialty television stations including The Movie Network, Family Channel, Teletoon and HBO Canada.

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