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    Toronto Hydro Telecom testing waters for sale  
    Globe and Mail  


    January 23, 2008  

The owner of the largest citywide WiFi network in Canada, Toronto Hydro Telecom Inc., was effectively put on the auction block yesterday in response to interest shown by potential buyers in recent months.

Toronto Hydro Corp., the telecom carrier's parent, has hired CIBC World Markets as adviser and is now canvassing possible suitors, according to Pankaj Sardana, a vice-president at city-owned Toronto Hydro. He added the move won't necessarily lead to a sale.

"It's incumbent on us to look at all these expressions that have come up," Mr. Sardana said. "Some of these expressions have been interesting and our board is interested in pursuing them further."

He wouldn't disclose the number or names of companies that have shown interest.

Analysts said big telecom companies in Toronto, which include Rogers Communications Inc. and Bell Canada, could be among those who might be interested. Telecom consultant SeaBoard Group also hinted in a report last month that telecom company Atria Networks, which is owned in part by private equity firm Birch Hill Equity Partners, could come knocking.

Atria has done quite a bit of shopping in Ontario in recent months. It picked up SCBN Telecommunications Inc. in the Simcoe area last March, fibre-optic network assets from PowerStream Inc. in Markham and Vaughan in October, and FibreWired Hamilton this month. What links all those purchases is their fibre-optic networks, which are used to provide Internet access and other data services.

Along with its WiFi network, Toronto Hydro Telecom also has an extensive fibre-optic network in downtown Toronto. Another potential selling point: The company owns the lampposts in the city, which could come in handy for installing wireless equipment.

Atria president Tom Pollock and a Bell spokesman declined to comment. Rogers wasn't immediately available.


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