America Movil chairman Carlos Slim was recently in India where he held talks with the head of Videocon Telecom and other mobile operators, the Economic Times reported.
Any move in India would be a first in Asia for Slim (pictured) and America Movil, which previously seemed interested in European expansion with a 21 percent stake in KPN and majority control of Telekom Austria. However, after failing to take over the Dutch incumbent, the operator has just completed a €3 billion bond offering that could signal a possible exit.
America Movil, the largest operator in Latin America, announced last month plans to spin off its tower business into a separate company in response to regulatory pressure to loosen its grip in the Mexican telecoms market, where it has about a 70 per cent share of mobile connections.
The sale presumably would give Slim, worth an estimated $77 billion, funds to make acquisitions in other markets.
Slim has expressed interest in the growth opportunities in the India market, the Times said. He is said to be looking for a partner in “anticipating for business-friendly rules”, covering M&A as well as spectrum trading and sharing. That objective is driven by stringent regulations in Mexico that don’t allow a player with more than a 50 per cent market share to charge termination rates.
America Movil’s Q1 net profit fell 42 per cent due to currency movements, while its service revenue growth was stalled by Mexican regulatory reform.
He reportedly met with Videocon chairman Venugopal Dhoot three times as well as the heads of other mobile operators, including Bharti Airtel.
Videocon confirmed that “large international telcos” have shown interest in making a strategic investment in the company and it is holding discussions with them, the Times said.
Videocon has just seven million mobile connections and less than 1 per cent market share, according to GSMA Intelligence.
Telenor’s Indian unit, Uninor, was said to have held discussions to acquire a majority stake in its smaller rival Videocon for as much as INR100 billion ($1.56 billion).
Consolidation activity has picked up pace over the past month in India’s telecoms market – the second largest in the world, with 12 operators serving 940 million mobile connections.
The country’s largest mobile operator Airtel said last week it was close to finalising a deal to acquire Augere Wireless Broadband for about INR1.5 billion ($23.5 million) to help it broaden 4G coverage.
The head of Reliance Communications was reported to be interested in buying Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL), but the Russian billionaire owner of Sistema said he has no plans to sell its India business, a small player with nearly nine million connections and almost a 1 per cent market share.