November 30, 2010 / 3:50 PM / in 7 years

Slim's America Movil eyes Serbian telecom stake

BELGRADE/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s America Movil, the world’s No. 3 cell phone company by number of wireless subscribers, is eyeing an upcoming stake sale in Serbia’s state phone giant Telekom Srbija.

Serbian Telecommunications Minister Jasna Matic said America Movil, owned by tycoon Carlos Slim, has expressed interest in buying tender documentation but has not offered a price for a stake in the company.

The Serbian government owns 80 percent of Telekom Srbija, with Greek operator OTE holding the other 20 percent. The government invited bids for 51 percent of the telecom operator in October. Interested companies have until December 10 to buy the documentation.

“We will see whether the Mexican company will purchase documentation next week,” Matic told reporters on Tuesday.

America Movil, which has operations ranging from the United States to Argentina, closed the third quarter with 267 million service accounts: 217 wireless, 28 million fixed-line, 12.5 million broadband Internet, and 9.4 million paid television.

Two weeks ago, the Mexican company announced a four-year expansion plan that includes aggressive subscriber base growth, deploying a submarine cable to improve traffic in Latin America, launching mobile financial services, and producing some content in countries where it already offers television services, like Colombia.

Chief Executive Daniel Hajj said that with few markets left to tap in Latin America, the company would consider expanding overseas. “We are open to invest outside Latam; we are open to review alternatives,” he said.

However, analysts said a venture into Serbia was not the most obvious move for America Movil.

“This Mexican story is a puzzling one. I cannot identify their (America Movil‘s) interest to enter Europe through Serbia, which is not integrated in European systems and which is a telecommunications dead-end,” said Mahmud Busatlija, a Belgrade-based consultant.

Additional reporting by Ivana Sekularac in Belgrade; editing by John Wallace

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