March 4, 2016 / 1:11 AM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Argentine regulator okays sale of controlling stake in Telecom Italia unit

(Adds details on deals, context)

BUENOS AIRES, March 3 (Reuters) - Argentina’s new telecoms regulator on Thursday approved Telecom Italia’s sale of its controlling stake in Telecom Argentina to investment firm Fintech, a source at the regulator said.

Telecom Italia agreed in November 2013 to sell its controlling stake in Telecom Argentina’s holding company Sofora to Fintech, the investment vehicle of Mexican financier David Martinez, for $960 million.

The deal was blocked by the former regulatorl AFTIC last October, during the final months of President Cristina Fernandez’s office, saying Fintech was “not in a position to operate” Telecom Argentina.

Argentina’s newly elected leader, Mauricio Macri, disbanded AFTIC and established the current telecommunications regulator ENACOM.

Separately, the source said the regulator had also given the green light to Cablevision, a subsidiary of media firm Grupo Clarin, for its takeover of mobile phone company Nextel Communications Argentina.

“Yes, the ENACOM board has approved the sale of Telecom and Nextel,” the source said.

Nextel did not immediately reply to an emailed request for comment and Clarin and Telecom Argentina could not immediately be reached after office hours.

Shares in Telecom Italia had gained on media reports the regulator was set to give the go-ahead.

Clarin’s move to take 100 percent ownership of Nextel with an additional 51 percent stake gives it a greater presence in Argentina’s mobile market, in which Nextel holds a 3 percent share.

Clarin on Sept. 14 bought an initial 49 percent stake in Nextel, a subsidiary of NII Holdings Inc, a Latin American mobile service provider. Days later the-then media regulator AFTIC rejected the deal, but that decision was later suspended by a local court.

The source said the approval of both deals would be published in Friday’s government gazette. (Reporting by Nicolas Misculin; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Sandra Maler and Andrew Hay)

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