Billionaire Carlos Slim is bowing to imminent antitrust legislation by planning a breakup of America Movil SAB (AMXL)’s phone operations in Mexico rather than risk profit-crushing restrictions if his company did nothing to curb its dominance. The shares soared.
America Movil, the Americas’ largest operator with 272 million wireless subscribers, decided to divest some assets to an independent company, reducing its market share in Mexican landlines and mobile phones to below 50 percent to appease regulators, America Movil said yesterday in a filing. Slim’s carrier will also separate its wireless towers from the rest of the business and will renounce its rights to acquire control of satellite-TV provider Dish Mexico. Slim and his family hold 57 percent of America Movil.
Slim, the world’s second-richest man and the son of a Lebanese immigrant to Mexico, had been weighing options for America Movil as Congress considered a bill that would impose the harshest penalties the company has ever encountered, as long as its subscribers represent more than half of the Mexican market. The carrier currently has 70 percent of Mexico’s mobile-phone subscribers and about 80 percent of landlines. America Movil has lost about $17 billion in market value since President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in 2012 on promises to spark more competition to boost the Mexican economy.
“The message is clear: They’re reacting to the regulatory pressure,” said Julio Zetina, an analyst at Vector Casa de Bolsa SA in Mexico City. “I’m surprised they have made a decision like this, and so quickly.”
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