Three bidders shortlisted for TI’s Argentine unit?

12 Feb 2010

According to a report by Argentine daily La Nacion, Telecom Italia (TI) has narrowed down the number of interested parties for its 50% stake in Sofora, the holding company that controls fixed line incumbent Telecom Argentina. Three potential buyers – all of which are local companies – remain in the running for the telco, with offers ranging from USD580 million to USD630 million. Property development firm IRSA Inversiones y Representaciones has been identified by the paper as one of the possible buyers, alongside Argentina Airports 2000 (a consortium led by Eduardo Eurnekian and Henry Gutierrez) and local investor Alfredo Roman. Earlier this month, a court in Argentina revoked a ruling issued by the country’s antitrust agency, the National Commission for the Defense of Competition (CNDC), which ordered TI to sell its 50% shareholding in Sofora. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the CNDC passed the ruling in August 2009 after determining that the stake violated antitrust legislation, as Spanish telecom group Telefonica, which acquired a 24.7% stake in the Italian firm through the Telco consortium in October 2007, already owns Argentina’s other fixed line operator Telefonica de Argentina, causing cross-ownership issues. In January 2009 an appeals court suspended the government’s deadline by which TI would be forced to sell its stake in Sofora. TI had immediately launched an appeal against the decision, which ordered it to begin the sale process before 25 February 2010 or face intervention in the process, and completely sell the stake by 25 August 2010. The CNDC has itself since appealed the court’s decision to freeze the timeline.