LatAm MarketWatch, February 2014

Regulatory changes and consolidation rumours in Latin America

Telefonica in talks with Iusacell?

Telefonica and Iusacell are reported to be in talks for a potential acquisition. Iusacell is the third Mexican mobile operator and is owned by Grupo Televisa and Grupo Salinas.  A possible merger between the two or an acquisition by Telefonica – which currently has 20% market share – would place both the Spanish company and Iusacell in a  stronger position against its major competitor, América Móvil (70% market share).

Brazilian subscriptions 

With 271.1 million mobile subscriptions by the end of 2013, Anatel, the Brazilian telecom regulator, has reported a +3.6% increase compared to 2012 and penetration rate of 136.5%.

Current subscriptions are divided between 58.9% GSM, 35% 3G and approximately 1.3 million 4G LTE users with over 78% of them being pre-paid accounts.

The local market is currently led by Telefonica Vivo with 77.2 million customers (28.5% share), followed by TIM Brasil and its 73.4 million subscriptions (27.1% share) and Claro with 68.7 users (25.3% share). In fourth place, PT’s Oi achieves 50.2 million connections (18.5% share).

Telecom Italia: from Telefonica to Egyptian talks

Telecom Italia is rumoured to be in talks with Telefonica, Oi and América Móvil over a deal worth Euro 10 billion or more for the acquisition of its Brazilian branch, TIM Brasil.

While carriers haven’t confirmed, several banks including Citi, Morgan Stanley and Pactual seem to be actively involved in negotiations and talks between all players. In the meantime, the Italian telecom giant has worked to establish a committee to evaluate potential bids but the company isn’t likely to accept offers below Euro 9 billion.

While Telefonica has repeatedly denied any negotiation, speculation continues about its potential involvement and plans to buy and then split up TIM Brasil among Vivo, Oi and América Móvil’s Claro have appeared in several national and international media. However, the process to reduce the market form four to three players will need the backing of regulatory bodies that so far seem unlikely to support any initiative which would significantly increase Telefonica’s stake in Telco, the holding company controlling Telecom Italia, of which Telefonica is the largest shareholder.

At the same time, Egyptian telecom mogul and minor shareholder in Telecom Italia, Naguib Sawiris has expressed his interest in buying TIM Brasil. Mr Sawiris repeatedly spoke against the acquisition of TIM Brasil by Telefonica as a move that will devalue Telecom Italia.

Moreover, Mr Sawiris declared he could potentially invest further in Telecom Italia – which still needs a Euro 3 billion capital injection – but would do so if and when Telefonica exits and TIM Brasil doesn’t get sold.

Vodafone to become new Brazilian player?

Brazil might gain a new player if UK giant Vodafone decides to enter the Latin American M2M market, as rumoured.

While still finalising its exit from US Verizon Wireless, Vodafone has been focusing on signing deals in India and in the UK, among others, but has also finalised an agreement with Datora Telecom to set up a Vodafone Brasil M2M brand.

Vodafone’s full entrance in the Brazilian market might be facilitated by TIM Brasil’s potential sale, especially if the local regulatory body rules in favour of maintaining four active operators in the country.

Corpco to be created in April

Portugal Telecom and Brazilian’s Oi are set to merge towards the end of April. The new company will be called Corpco and will be listed in Brazil, Portugal and New York.

Corpco will reach out to more than 100 million customers between Europe and Latin America and its revenue will reach around US$19 billion.

Chilean 700MHz tender delayed

The Chilean competition watchdog (TDLC) is currently deciding whether the process for the 700MHz spectrum auction allows for free and open competition and, as a result, the auction is being delayed.

The rollout requirements are said to be so demanding as to imply the need that carrier that secures the license have a dominant position in the market. Among the requirements, winning companies must provide broadband coverage in over 1,200 remote areas across the country.

Entel’s annual results and 4G timetable

A combined +6% in revenue from its domestic mobile services and +23% from the data and IT offerings have contributed to a 17% increase in revenue for Q4 2013 for Chilean Entel Group.

Entel acquired Nextel del Peru last year and has since registered new revenues up to CLP 34 billion, while its additional Peruvian business, Americatel, focused on enterprise wholesale, has reported +22% increase in revenue to CLP 5.8 billion.

With decreasing EBITDA at CLP 107.4 billion for Q4 2013 – down 5% compared to 2012 – Entel still takes advantage from a reduction in depreciation costs and a relative increase in operating income (EBIT) to to CLP49.2 billion (+46%).

Entel also registered a 2% increase in mobile subscription to over 9 million and ARPU went from CLP 9,200 in Q4 2012 to CLP9,500 in Q4 2013.

At the same time, Entel’s General Manager, Antonio Buchi, has confirmed the company’s plans to launch its 4G LTE services in March. Mr Buchi has declared that the company is working on the 2014 plans for the newly acquired Nextel del Peru, which would include a change of name and rebranding campaign.


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