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Regional telecoms organization expects more M&As in the next decade

Bnamericas Published: Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Ibero-American Telecoms Organization (OTI) expects the M&A trend seen in the last two years to continue in the next decade.

“What we are seeing is the tip of the iceberg,” director of best practices and regulatory analysis, Gonzalo Rojón, told BNamericas. “As 5G starts to get more pervasive, we're going to see a lot more mergers and moves,” he said.

Rojón added that all infrastructure markets will consolidate, including telecoms.

However, the content market will move as well. "OTTs are growing at a very fast pace, which is causing the market and the ecosystem to have to react in different ways," he said.

As example he cited the Televisa-Univisión merger in the US, which strengthened the position of the main audiovisual content producer in Spanish. Rojón also said telecoms companies might acquire content companies, as happened in the US when AT&T acquired TimeWarner.

“I wouldn't rule out the possibility of telecommunications companies acquiring content. At the end of the day, all this content passes through telecoms infrastructure,” he added.

However, TimeWarner is now is separating and merging with Discovery.

The towers sector will be especially vibrant, even more than fiber optics, according to Rojón. “I think that fiber optics is not having as much dynamism as that of towers. At the end of the day, many operators that deploy fiber want to stay in control.”

But there are exceptions. Telefónica pioneered the separation of the fiber optics business. Recently, Entel did the same in Chile.

Rojón expects that Sitios Latinoamérica, América Móvil’s new tower company, remains part of the Mexican group, however.

COMPETITION  

M&As of recent years have promoted fiber optics investments and sometimes leveled the playing field. Yet, the risk of reducing competition is inherent in consolidation, which is why regulation is key, according to Rojón.

He mentioned asymmetric regulation, infrastructure sharing or the division of companies as possible solutions.

Recently announced M&As do not pose risks to competition or market concentration at the level of Mexico or Colombia, where one operator dominates, Rojón said.

MAIN DEALS

Last year, major M&As took place in the telecoms sector.

In Guatemala, Millicom took control of the Tigo operation by acquiring 45% of the company for US$2.2bn.

In September, Liberty Latin America acquired Claro Panamá for some US$200mn. The transaction forced the third operator, Digicel, to exit the market.

Telefónica closed the sale of its operation in Costa Rica to Liberty Latin America for US$500mn and merged with Cabletica, a fixed service provider in which Liberty has an 80% stake.

Telefónica Colombia acquired DirecTV's broadband assets, including 70MHz of spectrum in the 2.5GHz band. Also in Colombia, WOM and Avantel began a merger process.

Telefónica reached agreements with KKR to transfer part of its fiber networks and create fiber-neutral vehicles in Chile and Colombia. In Brazil, it closed a deal with Canada’s CDPQ.

Meanwhile, AT&T sold Vrio (operating as DirecTV Latinoamérica and Sky) to Argentine group Werthein for an undisclosed amount.

The joint venture between VTR Chile and Claro was also recently approved.

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