Telecom Italia (TI) announced a deal to increase its stake in Sofora Telecommunications, the holding company which controls Telecom Argentina, from 50 percent to 58 percent, with the ownership of the majority stake also giving it full control of the business. TI’s interest in the Argentinean operator has been under fire from the country’s regulators in recent months, due to the fact that Telefonica owns both a share of TI and controls Telefonica Argentina – meaning that the Spanish company had an influence on two of the biggest telcos in the market. It had been suggested that TI would be forced to dispose of its Telecom Argentina stake, although it has now taken the opposite approach by gaining control of the company. Separately, TI played down reports that it is looking to acquire Sprint’s assets in the region, as a move to strengthen its presence in Argentina and Brazil, and add Chile to its operating roster.

Approval by the Argentinean regulatory authorities apparently comes after “lengthy and thorough” examination of the background to the transaction, as well as commitments that the activities of TI and Telefonica in Argentina will remain separate. A TI statement said that “measures have been agreed upon to ensure there will be no influence or participation on the part of Telefonica in any Telecom Italia decision-making process concerning its Argentinean subsidiaries,” and restrictions have also been placed on their commercial and operational relationships. It has previously been suggested that TI will look to increase the ties between Telecom Argentina and its Brazilian businesses, in order to make the most of its Latin American assets. According to Wireless Intelligence data, Telefonica’s Movistar is the second biggest mobile operator in Argentina, with a 32.5 percent share, ahead of Telecom Argentina’s Personal, with 30.4 percent. Also present is America Movil’s Claro (35 percent) and NII’s Nextel (2.1 percent).