(Adds context on changes in Argentina telecom regulations, quote from source, details on Telecom-Cablevision merger, share prices of Telecom and Cablevision)
By Eliana Raszewski
BUENOS AIRES, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Argentina likely will authorize telephone service providers to offer satellite television services as part of their packages by the end of the year, a source at the country’s Enacom telecoms regulator said on Tuesday.
The entity likely will make a final decision on a proposed merger between Telecom Argentina SA and Cablevision SA by mid-December, the source said. The country’s anti-trust regulator also would have to approve the deal.
The moves come as business-friendly President Mauricio Macri takes steps to roll back restrictions on consolidation in the South American country’s telecommunications sector.
The Telecom-Cablevision merger plans came after a reform allowing phone companies to also offer pay television services, paving the way toward so-called “quadruple-pay” packages that include landlines, mobile phones, pay television and internet service.
Phone companies still are prohibited by law from offering satellite television services but that likely will change either through a presidential decree or a law sent to Congress before the end of the year, according to the source.
“What it would do is treat all television services equally,” the source said.
In order to gain regulatory approval from Enacom, the merged Telecom-Cablevision entity would have to return broadcast airwaves spectrum to the Argentine government, Reuters reported in July. The company could return the airwaves after the mid-December approval, the source said on Tuesday.
The merged company would have a market capitalization of around $11 billion, making it one of the largest companies traded on the local stock exchange.
Telecom’s shares on the Buenos Aires bourse were down 3.6 percent at 108 pesos ($6.18) in Tuesday afternoon trading, while Cablevision shares were down 1.9 percent at 412 pesos ($23.58)per share amid a general decline in Argentine stocks after the central bank hiked interest rates last week. ($1 = 17.4750 Argentine pesos) (Reporting by Eliana Raszewski; Writing by Luc Cohen)