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Canada may have to review future RIM handset unit sale

By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government might have to review any sale of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd's handset business to a foreign buyer, Industry Minister Christian Paradis told Reuters on Tuesday.

Asked if he would allow such a sale to a foreign company, Paradis said: "It's speculation and each decision on each case is based on its own merit, so it would premature for me to speculate on any of these kinds of cases.

"So if something was going to occur, then we would have to determine if it was reviewable or not, depending on the threshold (of the value of the transaction), and then we go with the net-benefit test."

He was referring to a provision in the Investment Canada Act that requires the government to determine whether certain foreign investments in Canada are of net benefit to the country.

The markets have gained renewed excitement over RIM because of its new BlackBerry 10 operating system and because Chief Executive Thorsten Heins said its strategic review could potentially lead to the sale of its handset business.

"We hope to see RIM remain a global leader and player, and make sure it can grow organically," Paradis said by phone from Germany, where he is meeting with industrial leaders to promote Canada as a place to invest and to learn how they innovate.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Reuters last February that he wanted to see RIM grow "as a Canadian company." He singled out hostile takeovers and bids for what he described as "critical technology" companies as ones that Ottawa might block.

On a separate topic, Paradis said the government did not intend at present to lift foreign ownership restrictions on Canada's large telephone companies.

In March it eliminated foreign ownership restrictions on telecommunications carriers with a market share of 10 percent or less. But the rules remained for large companies including BCE Inc, Rogers Communications Inc, Telus Corp and Shaw Communications Inc.

For such companies, foreign ownership is limited to 20 percent of voting shares and indirect control to 46.7 percent.

He said if Canada were to change rules for the large telecom carriers, it would get tangled up with separate rules on broadcasting companies, which are required to have a minimum of Canadian broadcasting content.

"This is not in the cards of our government to go further down this road as we speak," he said.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by W Simon and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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