* Colombian market growth chance for Millicom
* Sees debt levels staying low
(Adds quotes, background)
STOCKHOLM Feb 5 Emerging markets telecoms group
Millicom International Cellular SA aims to boost its
position in the fast growing market of South American country
Colombia by merging its business with that of a regional
operator, it said on Tuesday.
The company, 36 percent owned by Swedish investment group
Kinnevik, generates about 40 percent of its revenues
from operations in South America, including Colombia, where it
owns the third biggest mobile operator.
It said in a statement it was in advanced talks with
industrial conglomerate EPM in Colombia on the possibility of
bringing EPM's operator, UNE EPM, which serves the area around
second biggest city Medellin, with Millicom's Colombian
Millicom has 50 percent plus one share in Tigo, while EPM
has 25 percent. EPM is also the largest shareholder in UNE EPM.
"The combination of a strong local partner with the
international expertise of Millicom has provided a solid model
in the past and will be even more important for the future,"
Millicom Chief Executive Hans-Holger Albrecht said.
The company provided no financial details, other than to say
it did not expect the ratio of its consolidated net debt to rise
above 1.5 times EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax,
depreciation and amortisation) if the deal went ahead.
It said the aim of the deal would be for both sides to put
in their respective telecoms businesses into a newly created
Millicom said in its latest financial report that Colombia
was one of the most attractive growth opportunities for it.
Revenue in South America in third quarter of 2012 was $480
million, up 14.6 percent year-on-year in local currency.
Still, EBITDA was $181 million, a 4.6 percent year-on-year
fall. It said the fall was due to an increase in investments to
further grow its market share in data.
(Reporting by Patrick Lannin; editing by Niklas Pollard)