Softbank to play hardball with AT&T for AM's Mexican assets?

31 Oct 2014

Japanese telecoms giant Softbank Corp has reportedly enlisted Marcelo Claure, the chief executive of its US wireless subsidiary Sprint Corp, to gather information on the Mexican telecoms assets that America Movil (AM) is planning to sell, ahead of a potential bid. According to the Wall Street Journal, despite Mr Claure’s involvement, any deal for the assets would be orchestrated through Softbank itself and will likely not involve Sprint directly. People familiar with the matter noted that Claure’s ‘examination’ of the assets is still at an early stage, and Softbank is unlikely to make a decision on whether to proceed with a bid until late next month. Industry insiders have long noted that the appointment of Bolivian-born Claure as Sprint CEO earlier this year was a sign that Softbank owner Masayoshi Son was keen to expand his reach into Latin America; Claure is the founder of mobile phone distributor Brightstar Corp (itself taken over by Sprint in October 2013), which boasts a considerable reach in Latin America.

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, AM owner Slim is ready to sell off parts of his Mexican telecoms business in an effort to cut his company’s market share across the sector to below the 50% mark, thus avoiding regulations that apply only to dominant players, and cease being a so-called ‘preponderant economic agent’. Last month it was reported that AM had contacted four potential suitors – AT&T, Softbank, Bell Canada and China Mobile – with a view to selling off selected parts its Telmex and Telcel businesses in a deal worth up to USD20 billion. AT&T is the nominal front-runner in the race, but the US giant is likely to face a rough ride from the Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (Ifetel), which has already raised questions regarding the longstanding ties between AM and its former minority shareholder AT&T.

Mexico, America Movil (AM), SoftBank Group Corp, Sprint Corporation (now part of T-Mobile US)