Govt forces TI to speed up sale of Telecom Argentina

8 Jan 2010

The government of Argentina has ordered Italian telecoms operator Telecom Italia (TI) to press ahead with the sale of its 50% stake in Sofora, the holding company that controls fixed line incumbent Telecom Argentina, BNamericas reports citing local daily La Nacion. The report adds that the state could oblige the Italian company to begin the process to divest its Argentine unit in February this year. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Argentina’s antitrust agency, the National Commission for the Defense of Competition (CNDC), determined in late August 2009 that TI’s 50% stake in Sofora violates antitrust legislation as Spain’s Telefonica, which holds a 24.7% stake in the Italian firm, already owns fixed line operator Telefonica de Argentina. ‘In the month of August 2009, a timeline was set for Spain’s Telefonica to cut its connections from the 50% of Telecom Argentina,’ commented economy minister Amado Boudou at a press conference on the matter, adding, ‘With four months having passed without anything having been done, we have proceeded to set a timeline for them and will start to monitor it from February for the change of ownership.’ If TI fails to initiate the process, the government could reportedly hire an intervenor or use additional tools to pressure the sale. A number of companies have reportedly expressed an interest in TI’s stake, including six Argentine groups – Grupo America, Grupo Clarin, Telecentro, Grupo Pegasus, Grupo Roman and Inversiones Condor – as well as Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim and Brazilian group Andrade Gutierrez.