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Conservatives offer transparency on takeover rules

The federal government promised on Friday to make its reviews of foreign takeovers more transparent, allowing it to explain when it has concerns about a proposed investment and perhaps even saying why.

A government statement said it will change the way it reviews foreign investments, a nod to those who have complained about opaque rules that allow the government to block takeovers that it does not think will provide a net benefit to Canada.

"The amendments would allow the minister (of industry) to disclose publicly the fact that he has sent a preliminary notice to an investor that he is not satisfied that the investment is likely to be of net benefit to Canada," the statement said.

"They would also allow the minister to publicly explain his reasons for sending the notice as long as it would not cause harm to the Canadian business or the investor."

The international business community was shocked in 2010 when the federal government vetoed a takeover bid for fertilizer giant Potash Corp. from Anglo-Australian miner BHP Billiton.

That also prompted concern about what the Conservative government would do if, for example, a foreign company bid for BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, a major technology company that has fallen on hard times as consumers shy away from its smartphones.

Under the Investment Canada Act, the government can review and block any foreign investments worth more than $312 million, a paltry sum in the global mergers game, if it thinks a deal is not in Canada's best interests.

It has exercised that right twice; once with the planned acquisition of a satellite company by a U.S. bidder and in the 2010 bid for Potash Corp.

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