América Móvil's owner joins the race to acquire Nextel Argentina

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mexican billonaire Carlos Slim may be interested in acquiring Argentine trunking operator Nextel Argentina, which is owned by telecommunications group NII Holdings (Nasdaq: NIHD), local press reported.

According to the report, Nextel Argentina could have a total value of around US$400mn.

Slim owns Mexican telecoms giant América Móvil (NYSE: AMX), which operates in Argentina under the Claro brand. According to the reports, Claro has a current market share of 32% of the local mobile telephony market.

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Last week, press reported that Argentine holding Corporación América, owned by local businessman Eduardo Eurnekian, is also interested in acquiring Nextel to then form an association with state-owned telecommunications operator ArSat.

ArSat currently owns nearly 25% of 3G spectrum in the country following the government decision to cancel a spectrum auction last year and assign it to ArSat.

Federal planning minister Julio De Vido recently said that the government expects ArSat to be in a position to launch mobile services under the brand in the short term.

This association scheme with Eurnekian will enable the state telco to rapidly enter the market to compete with mobile operators Claro, Personal and Movistar.

NII Holdings had previously said that it was exploring strategic options including partnerships, service arrangements and asset sales for its operations in Argentina, Chile and Peru. Last April, Chilean telco Entel agreed a US$400mn deal for the acquisition of NII Holdings' Peruvian subsidiary Nextel Peru.

According to NII Holdings' latest financial report, Nextel Argentina ended the first quarter of the year with 1.82mn subscribers.