(Reuters) -Rogers Communications has extended the deadline for its takeover of Shaw Communications for the fourth time to March 31 as the wireless carriers await final approval from Canadian industry minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.
The Friday announcement from Rogers and Shaw comes after the companies set a Feb. 17 deadline last month as a long-drawn battle for approval with the country's competition bureau came to an end.
The antitrust tribunal approved the deal in December and a Canadian court later dismissed the competition bureau's efforts to overturn the approval.
The deal to create Canada's No. 2 telecoms company had triggered concerns of lessening competition in a country where wireless bills are already among the highest in the world.
To alleviate the antitrust issues, Rogers-Shaw agreed to sell Freedom Mobile, a wireless business owned by Shaw, to Quebecor Inc. The C$2.85 billion ($2.11 billion) sale is now expected to close by March 31, the companies said.
Champagne, whose approval is needed for the transfer of spectrum licenses held by Shaw's Freedom Mobile unit to Quebecor's Videotron, has previously indicated support for the deal if certain conditions were met.
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, which Champagne heads, did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Separately, Shaw on Friday announced a monthly dividend and suspended its dividend reinvestment plan.
Shaw also said it had received an extension from the Toronto Stock Exchange and an order from the Alberta Court of King's Bench to hold its 2023 annual general meeting by no later than May 31.
"If the Rogers-Shaw merger has not closed by such time, the company expects to hold its 2023 annual general meeting near the end of May," Shaw said in a statement.
($1 = 1.3534 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Devika Syamnath)