AT&T linked with deals in Brazil, Argentina; stages formal govt discussions

30 Sep 2016

US telecoms giant AT&T has given one of the strongest hints yet that it plans to target the Brazilian and Argentinian telecoms sectors in the near future. The telco, which completed the dual acquisition of Iusacell and Nextel in Mexico last year – before going on to merge the operations as AT&T Mexico – has long been linked with deals elsewhere in Latin America. This week, Jeffery McElfresh, president of pay-TV firm DirecTV Latin America (an AT&T subsidiary since 2015), told Argentinean newspaper La Nacion that he and Ralph de la Vega, the CEO of AT&T International, have held meetings with president Mauricio Macri to assess investment opportunities in the country, admitting: ‘For us, pay-TV is not the most important product for the future; the broadband and mobile telephony sectors are very important to AT&T.’ Rules governing outside investment will have to be relaxed, as happened in Mexico, before AT&T considers a concrete move, however.

Mr McElfresh has also shed light on AT&T’s Brazilian plans, confirming that company representatives have recently staged meetings with the Brazilian government and the National Telecommunications Agency (Agencia Nacional de Telecomunicacoes, Anatel) to discuss the stabilisation of the macroeconomic situation and to seek clarity regarding the current regulatory environment. Speaking to Brazilian financial journal Valor Economico at the Mobile 360 Series event in Mexico City, McElfresh reportedly named financially stricken telcos Oi and Nextel Brasil as potential takeover targets, as well as Telecom Italia-backed TIM Participacoes (TIM Brasil).

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Sky Brasil Servicos (Sky Brazil) has offered time division LTE (TD-LTE) connectivity since December 2011, and counted 305,474 broadband subscribers as of end-June 2016. Sky Brazil is the country’s second largest pay-TV provider, with 5.348 million subscribers as of mid-2016. DirecTV Argentina, meanwhile, launched fixed-wireless TD-LTE broadband services in 2014, as did DirecTV Colombia. Going forward, plans are afoot to initiate similar deployments in Venezuela and Peru.