America Movil

By Scott Wallsten of the Technology Policy Institute

Mexico has long suffered from an underperforming telecommunications sector dominated by a single company, América Móvil. The new government made reinvigorating the sector a key reform goal. It added rules governing telecoms to Mexico’s constitution and last month the president signed a “secondary law” further detailing those changes.

Some parts of the law are promising. It creates a new, more independent and tougher regulator to replace a weak and often ineffective one. It introduces regulations that América Móvil saw as so costly that it announced plans to divest in order to avoid them – which could lead to the happy outcome of more competition with no need to impose the costly regulations. Mexico should be proud of these achievements.

Another part of the law, however, might undermine everything. 

Growing in Brazil has long been in the sights of Carlos Slim’s América Móvil. The company has almost as many subscribers there as in Mexico, where it is under regulatory pressure.

So teaming up with an existing carrier to buy the country’s No. 2 cellphone carrier might be a smart move.

According to Bloomberg, América Móvil is talking to Brazil’s Oi about teaming up to make a joint bid for the Brazilian operations of mobile operator TIM. 

Backed into a corner by tough new Mexican telecoms regulations, Carlos Slim’s América Móvil (AMX) has come out fighting.

Its plan to divest assets – probably unprofitable rural subscribers, as well as cellphone towers – is its opening gambit. Will it be enough?

The mettle of Mexico’s new independent telecoms regulator, the IFT, and its perpetually smiling president Gabriel Contreras, will now be put to the test.

 

By Pan Kwan Yuk and Jude Webber

América Móvil, the pan-American mobile phone operator controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim, is not done with Europe yet.

A day after reporting a near 50 per cent decline in quarterly profit and a 1.2bn pesos ($92m) hit related to its investment in Dutch telecoms group KPN, the company made it clear on Friday that it was keeping its options on KPN and Europe open. 

América Móvil on Thursday became the latest company to sound a sour note on the Mexican economy after it reported a near 50 per cent drop in third-quarter profit.

The pan-American mobile phone operator controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim saw profit for the three months to September 30 collapse to 16.4bn pesos ($1.2bn), compared with 30.4bn pesos in the same period a year ago and well below market expectations of 25.6bn pesos. The reasons? Soaring financing costs, currency headwinds and losses incurred from its ill-timed investment in KPN, the ailing Dutch telecoms group it tried to take over this year. 

It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong. And love him or hate him, you have to give props to Carlos Slim, the Mexican tycoon, for walking away from his proposed €7.2bn bid for KPN on Wednesday.

As beyondbrics has previously noted, the deal never made that much sense on paper. For starters, to finance the €2.40 per share offer, AMX would have risked having to cancel a share buyback and raise $4bn of debt financing. In addition, buying KPN would have meant swallowing €9.5bn of debt. Both moves would have put AMX’s cherished A2 Moody’s and A- Standard & Poor’s ratings at risk. 

The math for the deal never made too much sense and it looks like Carlos Slim has finally seen the light.

On Wednesday, Slim’s América Móvil said in a SEC filing that it was withdrawing its proposed €7.2bn offer for KPN. It cites the inability to overcome the poison pill defence adopted by Foundation Preference Shares B KPN, an independent foundation charged with protecting the Dutch telecoms group, as the primary reason for walking away. 

“Dime cuándo, cuándo, cuándo” (Tell me when, when, when) goes the song.

Well, Carlos Slim’s América Móvil has inched a little bit closer to nailing down timing of its planned offer for Dutch phone firm KPN. 

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just 11 days after América Móvil (AMX) ended a shareholder agreement with KPN that capped its stake in the Dutch phone carrier at about 30 per cent, the Mexican group controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim made its move.

With a great thud of cash hitting the table, Slim’s AMX on Friday announced a €7.2bn bid for the 70 per cent of KPN it does not already own. 

A Mexican standoff? América Móvil (AMX), the Latin American telecoms giant, has ditched a shareholder pact with KPN. What happens next?

As the FT has reported, the ending of an uneasy truce between the shareholders – which had limited AMX’s stake in the Dutch telecoms group – opens the door to several possibilities, especially since AMX’s boss, Carlos Slim, is believed to be none too keen on the price at which KPN was planning to sell its German business. 

It was BT, the British phone company, that used the legendary advertising slogan “It’s good to talk” nearly 20 years ago.

But it’s a sentiment America Móvil, Latin America’s biggest phone company, will be celebrating after reporting better-than-expected second quarter profits – driven by chatterbox mobile callers in Mexico and South America. 

It’s possible that Carlos Slim has never downloaded an application into his mobile phone. He’s not known for his information technology prowess – he doesn’t even have a computer in his office. What he is known for is his business acumen.

His latest venture into music recognition app Shazam for $40m, through his multinational telecommunication company, América Móvil, is a case in point.

 

Almost a year after America Movil, the largest telecom company in Latin America, made its first acquisition in the US prepaid cellphone market, when it bought Simple Mobile, the company has done it again.

On Monday, it announced the purchase of Start Wireless Group, another mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that will add 1.4m subscribers to TracFone Wireless, America Movil’s US subsidiary. 

It’s not quite a done deal yet. But it’s getting there.

Mexico’s Congress on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly in support of a sweeping reform bill that could break open the country’s telecommunications and broadcasting sectors and introduce more competition in the two tightly-held markets.

But while the Senate voted 108-3 to approve the bill (which has already been passed by the lower house), a number of constitutional changes included in the reform package still need to be approved by two-thirds of Mexico’s 31 state legislatures before it can become law. 

Just when the gloom seemed to be getting too much for Homex, the leading homebuilder in Mexico by revenues, there was light: the company’s shares and bonds rocketed on Friday after it announced a deal to sell a chunk of its prisons business for 4bn pesos ($326m).

And guess who bought it…telecoms tycoon Carlos Slim.