Mexican broadcaster Grupo Televisa anounced the sale of its 50 per cent stake in Iusacell to its joint venture partners Grupo Salinas, preparing the way for AT&T to acquire the mobile operator.
In a statement on the Mexican stock exchange, reported by Reuters, Televisa said it received $717 million for its stake in Iusacell, around $205 million of which has been spent on the purchase of cable player Cablevision Red.
AT&T said in November that it planned to buy Iusacell for $2.5 billion once Grupo Salinas had secured full ownership of the company. The move received approval from Mexico’s Federal Institute of Telecommunications (IFT), in December.
Iusacell is Mexico’s third largest operator behind America Movil’s dominant Telcel and Telefonica’s Movistar. It had 8.8 million connections at the end of the fourth quarter of 2014, according to GSMA Intelligence figures. This compared to Telcel’s 70.9 million connections and Movistar’s 21.0 million.
Iusacell, which also offers mobile services under the Unefon brand, has a network that covers around 70 per cent of Mexico’s 120 million population. AT&T will acquire Iusacell’s licences, network assets, retail stores and subscribers, as well as taking on its debts.
AT&T said in November that it “plans to expand Iusacell’s network to cover millions of additional customers and businesses in Mexico”. Iusacell has a 3G network based on the same WCDMA technology used by AT&T.
While AT&T’s interest in the Mexican market had been reported previously, the company had also been linked with the assets to be offloaded by America Movil in the country – with AT&T and America Movil having a long history together.
This now looks less likely, unless AT&T also attempts to buy both sets of assets to drive in-market consolidation.
With America Movil’s asset disposal the result of regulator action designed to improve competition in the market, it is not clear what its stance would be on such a transaction.