AT&T chief categorically denies telco will move for AM assets

29 Jan 2015

AT&T Inc chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson has offered the strongest indication yet that the US telecoms giant has no plans to pursue the acquisition of surplus America Movil (AM) assets in Mexico, following the back-to-back takeovers of Iusacell and Nextel Mexico. In a fourth-quarter earnings call transcript, as quoted by Seeking Alpha, Stephenson commented: ‘I will say it again, we’ve got all we can handle right now in Mexico. And we’re going to be focused on getting Nextel International closed, integrating that network, integrating those customer channels, integrating the distribution channels and getting ourselves scaled in Mexico, so anything else is just kind of speculation and then probably isn’t worth conversation at this point.’

When questioned on AT&T’s plans elsewhere in Latin America, particularly Brazil, Stephenson acknowledged that DirecTV – the pay-TV provider that AT&T agreed to pay USD48.5 million for last year – has done an effective job of accumulating spectrum in various markets. As such, AT&T intends to ‘leverage these assets’ when the transaction closes. AT&T is currently awaiting regulatory approval to complete its takeover of DirecTV, which aside from its US user base is one of the major pay-TV providers in Latin America.

DirecTV’s current management team has launched Time Division-Long Term Evolution (TD-LTE) fixed-wireless technology using 2500MHz spectrum via both Sky Brasil and DirecTV Colombia, with plans afoot to initiate similar deployments in Venezuela and Peru.

In related news, Mexican business daily El Financiero has reported that AT&T is likely to be forced to return a chunk of wireless spectrum to the Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (Ifetel) prior to initiating a formal merger between the Iusacell and Nextel. Citing the 80MHz spectrum cap previously established by the Comision Federal de Competencia, the website suggests that the combined entity would hold well over 100MHz of wireless spectrum. Indeed, El Financiero claims that, in terms of overall spectrum holdings, Iusacell/Nextel would hold 39.66% of the market’s available frequencies, ahead of AM-backed Telcel (32.16%) and Telefonica-backed Movistar (15.51%), with the remaining allocation unused, or allocated to smaller players.

Mexico, America Movil (AM), AT&T, Iusacell (inc. Unefon), Nextel de Mexico