Nextel, Telecom Argentina takeovers approved, source says

4 Mar 2016

Argentina’s new telecoms regulator the National Entity for Communications (Ente Nacional de Comunicaciones, ENACOM) has reportedly approved Telecom Italia (TIM’s) sale of its controlling stake in Telecom Argentina, to investment firm Fintech, as well as NII Holdings’ sale of Nextel Argentina to Grupo Clarin-backed Cablevision. Local daily La Nacion cites a source at the regulator as saying: ‘Yes, the ENACOM board has approved the sale of Telecom and Nextel … We carried out a technical assessment and the transactions are impeccable’. However, the anonymous source noted that both deals still require the approval of anti-trust regulator, the National Commission for Defence of Competition (Comision Nacional de Defensa de la Competencia, CNDC).

TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that TIM sold its original 68% stake in Nortel Inversora, the controlling shareholder of Telecom Argentina, to Fintech for USD960 million in November 2013. An initial 17% stake (valued at USD215.7 million) was transferred to Fintech in October 2014, but the wider deal ran into trouble a year later when then-regulator the Federal ICT Authority (Autoridad Federal de Tecnologias de la Informacion y las Comunicaciones, AFTIC) blocked the sale, claiming that Fintech has not demonstrated sufficient experience and expertise to take control of Telecom Argentina’s infrastructure.

Running in parallel, AFTIC formally rejected the sale of an initial 49% stake in Nextel Argentina by US-based NII Holdings to local media conglomerate Grupo Clarin in September 2015, claiming that the parties had not sought the necessary regulatory approvals prior to announcing the deal. Following the change in government in November 2015 Clarin pressed ahead with a deal to buy Nextel outright.