MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican telecoms company America Movil plans to divest assets as quickly as possible to escape tougher regulation, and it hopes to sell to a single buyer, spokesman Arturo Elias said on Wednesday.
The company controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim announced on Tuesday that it was ready to sell assets to cut its market share in Mexican telecoms below 50 percent and avoid regulations that apply only to dominant players.
Those new rules are part of a telecommunications sector overhaul approved by Congress in an attempt to curb the power of America Movil and broadcaster Televisa.
Shares of America Movil were up 8.69 percent at 14.6 pesos. The company has a market value of well over $70 billion. It has some 70 percent of the mobile market and is the dominant force in fixed line and Internet.
America Movil will have to sell 15 percent to 17 percent of its share in telephony to weigh in below the 50 percent threshold and still have margin to grow, and aimed to do so as quickly as it could, Elias said.
Speculation has already begun to swirl over who might buy the assets. Analysts have zeroed in on companies such as AT&T, which sold its stake in America Movil for $5.57 billion to a company controlled by Slim in June.
AT&T declined to comment.
“It would have to be someone who comes to Mexico to really invest in telecommunications, to create a true, tough competitor,” Elias said.
He declined to name a price for the assets, which industry experts say could be worth well over $10 billion.
Elias added that the company also plans to offer pay television as quickly as possible, a lucrative market that it has been kept out of so far. If regulators approve Slim’s divestiture plan, the pay TV market could open up to him.
Congress on Wednesday gave final approval to secondary laws laying out the fine print of the telecoms sector overhaul.
The legislation will now be signed into law by President Enrique Pena Nieto, who has pushed a host of reforms through Congress to boost lackluster growth.
The telecoms measures are the toughest battery of regulations Slim has faced since he took control of Mexico’s former state phone monopoly Telmex at the start of the 1990s. That helped him to become the world’s richest man by 2010.
Approval of the reform’s rules and regulations was delayed by more than six months, as lawmakers clashed over issues such as whether the bills would give an unfair break to Televisa, the biggest player in Mexico’s television market.
Presidential legal advisor Humberto Castillejos said that no dominant tag was planned for pay TV, but added the new telecoms regulator would have to investigate if any firm had “substantial market power” that could require tougher regulation.
Reporting by Alexandra Alper, Gabriel Stargardter and Tomas Sarmiento; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Lisa Shumaker