The gloves truly came off this weekend in the high-stakes battle for Canadian media domination.
Just as shareholders in the Quebec-based cable company Groupe Videotron were preparing to vote on a proposed C$5.6bn ($3.8bn) takeover by the nation's largest cable operator, a rival hostile bid was suddenly tabled that only complicated the local cable landscape even further.
Montreal-based media behemoth Quebecor and one of Videotron's principal shareholders, pension fund manager Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, joined forces in unfurling a C$5.9bn counter-offer for Videotron on Friday.
The new bid is around $200m higher than the existing offer from Rogers Communications, the Canadian cable leader that was looking to buy Videotron in order challenge the supremacy of local telco BCE, Canada's principal communications giant.
The Videotron acquisition was seen as critical to Rogers' plans to leverage an entry into residential telephony using its cable subscriber base. Not only would Videotron's 1.5m subscribers boost Rogers' base to 3.8m, but the Quebec company is a leader in developing interactive high-speed service having already wired the majority of its subscribers through a fibre optic network.
Adding insult to injury, Rogers recently agreed a $4bn asset swap with its western Canada-base rival Shaw Cable, as both companies seek to consolidate their geographical powerbases. The terms of that deal will be brought into question by this Quebecois spoiler.
Quebecor and Caisse officials characterised their eleventh-hour play as a made-in-Quebec version of the AOL-Time Warner merger, with content-rich old media player Quebecor feeding the pipeline of internet-savvy Videotron. But for all the strategic lip-service, their offer seems as much motivated by geo-political considerations as financial ones: for the Quebec allies, keeping Videotron within their region is a matter of French-Canadian pride.
The Caisse, with $105bn in assets, has a history of using its clout to extract the best terms not only for its investments but its investors. Quebecor, despite its multinational reach, is similarly nationalistic. Montreal has already lost to Toronto its status as Canada's principal city; the transfer of a telecom jewel like Videotron to Ontario ownership would only further the erosion.