Coinvest snaps up CTI Movil

4 Mar 2003

The Argentine investment group Coinvest has agreed terms to purchase domestic wireless operator CTI Movil from its majority shareholders, US-based Verizon [NYSE: VZ] and the Blackstone Group, according to reports in the local press. Verizon owns 65% of the company via direct and indirect holdings and Blackstone has 10%; the remaining shares are held by employees (17%), Deutsche Morgan Grenfell (5%) and Grupo Clarin (3%). Although the value of the deal has not been disclosed it is understood that Coinvest, which was formed in early 2002 by former directors of fixed line operator Telefónica de Argentina, CEI Citicorp Holdings, the Exxel Group and Nike Argentina, will pay cash and assume some USD1 billion of CTI Movil’s debt, following which it will launch a major restructuring programme. CTI owes USD540 million in vendor financing commitments to Lucent Technologies and has bonds worth USD250 million. Coinvest’s decision has surprised local analysts which had expected another cellco to emerge to acquire CTI and its 1.2 million-strong customer base. However, they concede that the investment group could be looking to cash in on the low price of the operator stemming from Argentina’s recent economic woes. Coinvest made four major acquisitions in 2002, including corporate communications provider MetroRod Argentina at the close of the year.