AT&T deal opens era of competition with Mexico's Slim

Mon May 19, 2014 2:39pm EDT
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By Christine Murray

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - For a generation, AT&T and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim's telephone business stood side by side and grew to become giants of the industry north and south of the Rio Grande.

Now, AT&T Inc's planned $48.5 billion purchase of U.S. satellite provider DirecTV is severing a connection with Slim that goes back to 1990, and turning them into competitors.

AT&T said on Sunday it would sell its 8.4 percent stake in America Movil, Slim's main cash cow, and withdraw its board members from the company to avoid conflicts of interest with the Mexican's TV operations across Latin America.

News of the divestment hit Slim immediately. America Movil's shares fell more than 5 percent early on Monday, wiping over $3.5 billion off the company's value, although they recovered some ground in late morning trade and were down about 3 percent.

AT&T's chief executive officer, Randall Stephenson, wasted no time in acknowledging that the relationship had changed.

"I learned a lot from Carlos and so, obviously, Carlos and I have spoken and he is a very dear friend, but now he is going to be a competitor and we recognize that and off we go," Stephenson said on a call with investors on Monday.

A spokeswoman for America Movil declined to comment on the deal.

Slim, who was the world's richest man from 2010-2013, has nearly 20 million pay television subscribers in Latin America, putting him squarely into competition with DirecTV, especially in Brazil. He has not yet been allowed into the Mexican pay TV market, however, due to fears he could crush competitors.   Continued...

The AT&T logo is pictured by its store in Carlsbad, California, April 22, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake