Billionaire entrepreneur Ricardo Salinas plans to buy 50 per cent of Iusacell, Mexico’s third-largest mobile operator, for $717 million from broadcaster group Televisa.
He’s also looking for a strategic partner to boost Iusacell’s performance, indicating perhaps that Telefonica’s reported interest in the operator is not over.
The deal, should it gain regulatory approval, means the chairman of the Salinas Group will fully own Iusacell.
Salinas Group describes itself as a “group of dynamic, fact-growing and technologically advanced companies”.
Salinas’ enthusiasm for telecoms in Mexico has grown following regulatory reforms. In a press release, the group said it will expand its commercial and technology infrastructure in Mexico, helped in part by new regulations that give better roaming deals with network operators that are deemed dominant.
The unlocking of prepaid devices, without cost for the operator, is also seen as a regulatory plus as users can more easily switch networks.
The same press release adds that the chairman is “in the process of selecting a world class strategic partner to strengthen the robust performance of [Iusacell] and jointly boost the most competitive telecommunications offer in Mexico”.
Before Salinas’ $717 million move, Telefonica had been reportedly interested in merging its Mexican subsidiary (Movistar) with Iusacell to mount a more concerted challenge to runaway market leader Telcel, owned by America Movil. Iusacell has around eight million connections and Movistar just under 20 million. Telcel, however, has more than 70 million connections.
Group Televisa said it will make a book loss of around $320 million on the sale of its 50 per cent Iusacell stake.