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Astral plans to move radio stations quickly

MONTREAL - Astral Media president and CEO Ian Greenberg told financial analysts during his company's quarterly conference call that interest in the radio stations Astral has up for sale is very high and that the company expects to do a deal soon.

Earlier this month, the CRTC turned thumbs-down on Astral's deal to sell eight AM stations and Quebec City FM station CFOM-FM to Quebecor Media. The Commission cited concentration of media concerns given Quebecor's already vast print and electronic media holdings.

Astral acquired the stations when it bought Telemedia's Quebec and New Brunswick radio assets in 2001, but the move gave it too many stations in Quebec, according to the Competition Bureau, and they were compelled to sell them.

"We hope to move expeditiously on this sale process," said Greenberg. "So far, we are very satisfied with the number of parties who have shown interest in both these properties (AM and FM) and… therefore hopefully in the next short period, we'll be able to move on selling these assets."

However, it won't be done prior to the end of this fiscal year, August 31st, 2003.

Company officials said that the process it went through to sell the stations last time was very quick and produced few bidders. Plus, at that time, a number of applications for new frequencies in the province of Quebec were still before the Commission and potential bidders shied away.

This time around, Greenberg said during the conference call, the company is taking somewhat more time and have found many interested parties. "This is the last opportunity to own an AM network and the last opportunity for an FM frequency in Quebec city," he pointed out.

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