America Movil, the Mexican telecom run by billionaire Carlos Slim, said Tuesday it plans to trim its mobile phone assets to appease antitrust regulators in its home country.
Slim’s company, which is Latin America’s largest wireless operator with roughly 250 million subscribers, has decided to divest certain assets to an independent carrier in order to reduce its market share in the Mexican telecommunications industry below 50%, according to Tuesday’s filing. America Movil currently holds a 70% share of the country’s mobile phone market, along with about 80% of its market for landlines, with Slim and his family controlling about 57% of the company themselves.
The company said it decided to divest holdings in order to avoid being categorized as a “preponderant economic agent” under new legislation being considered by Mexico’s government, which has made clear its intentions to impose harsh penalties against any telecom holding more than a majority of the industry’s market share.
America Movil’s stock was up almost 5% one day after its announcement, and it has jumped more than 10% since the company announced last month that it had formed a committee to evaluate its strategic options in the face of the new regulations. America Movil’s stock had previously fallen as much as 15% earlier this year due to market concerns over regulatory scrutiny. The company has lost billions in market value since Mexico’s current administration, led by President Enrique Peña Nieto, took control two years ago and promised to pursue strict antitrust regulations.
America Movil said it will also separate its cellular towers from the rest of its assets and it will renounce its rights to acquire a majority stake in satellite-TV company Dish Mexico, with which America Movil has partnered to provide customers a bundled option for satellite-TV, phone and Internet services.
The company may get as much as $8.3 billion for the pending asset sale, according to Bloomberg, which reports that America Movil would need to shed about 21 million wireless subscribers and 4 million landline customers in order to drop its market share below the 50% mark. The company could raise further funds by selling its mobile towers.
Last month, Slim increased his holdings in the company by repurchasing an 8.3% stake, worth about $5.9 billion, from AT&T, allowing the U.S. company to avoid any conflicts in the Mexican market that would have arisen after its purchase of DirecTV.