Anatel highlights ‘obstacles’ barring possible sale of TI stake to América Móvil or Telefónica

18 Apr 2007

The Brazilian telecoms regulator Anatel has warned that any plan by América Móvil (AM) to buy a stake in Telecom Italia (TI), the owner of the country’s second largest mobile operator TIM Brasil, could face local regulatory obstacles, writes BNamericas citing reports in local newspaper Valor Econômico. Anatel board member Jose Leite Pereira was quoted as saying the same would apply to Spain’s Telefónica if it were to decide to seek a stake in the Italian firm.

AM recently submitted a joint bid with AT&T for 33% each in Italian holding company Olimpia, which has an 18% controlling share of TI. The US firm has since dropped out of the running, with the Spanish giant now widely tipped to enter the race. The watchdog warns however, of the ‘regulatory and anti-competitive obstacles that exist’ should any deal be agreed, specifically citing issues concerning the ‘overlap of mobile telephone licences’ held by each company. Telefónica has a 50:50 joint venture with Portugal Telecom in the country’s largest operator Vivo, while AM controls Claro, Brazil’s third largest player. Under Brazilian telecoms law, an operator cannot legally control two competing cellcos in the same concession area. The anti-trust authority Cade would need to assess the ramifications of a Claro-TIM or Vivo-TIM tie-up, either of which would leave the successful owner of TIM with roughly 50% of the market, and an even stronger share of Brazil’s most lucrative market São Paulo.

According to data published by Anatel, Brazil was home to more than 102 million mobile phone subscriptions at the end of March, thanks to a net addition of 469,568 lines in the month, the smallest increase since 2003.