Mexico's Slim welcomes planned telecoms reform

MEXICO CITY, March 17 Sun Mar 17, 2013 6:14pm EDT

MEXICO CITY, March 17 (Reuters) - Mexican telecoms tycoon Carlos Slim, whose wealth has taken a knock since the government on Monday unveiled a reform bill to overhaul the industry he dominates, said on Sunday he welcomed the plan as a boon for competition.

Hailed as the biggest shake-up of Mexico's phone and television market in decades, the bill aims to boost foreign competition and give regulators the power to force firms to sell assets if they have more than 50 percent of the market.

Slim, the world's richest man, controls about 80 percent of Mexico's fixed line business and 70 percent of the mobile market through his phone company America Movil. He declined to discuss the impact of the reform on his firm at an event in Mexico City.

But speaking as co-president of the broadband commission of the International Telecommunication Union, an arm of the United Nations that seeks to expand access to communications technology worldwide, Slim praised the new bill.

"The telecommunications law ... coincides with everything this commission has sought: universal service, better prices, higher speeds and convergence", Slim told reporters.

The reform bill was approved by a committee in the lower house of Congress on Thursday with no changes and will move to the Senate once the full house votes on it, likely this week.

The bill has hit America Movil's shares hard.

Since Monday, the company's stock has lost some 13 percent, and it is down more than a fifth year to date. It also suffered last month when the company released fourth-quarter results that fell far short of expectations. The company has lost about $19 billion year-to-date in market value.

Asked whether he thought the bill would increase foreign and domestic investment Slim said: "hopefully."

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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