Mexican tycoon Slim scores new win in Europe
MEXICO CITY, June 28 — Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim notched another victory in Europe yesterday as he acquired a quarter of Dutch telecom KPN, bolstering his expanding mobile phone empire.
Slim’s cellphone giant America Movil said it was offered more shares than it needed to reach its goal of getting 27.7 per cent of KPN.
America Movil’s €8/share offer ended yesterday but the company bought most of the stake, 24.91 per cent, through open market acquisitions at a lower price earlier this month.
The company said in a statement to the Mexican stock exchange that it was offered a large number of additional shares, equivalent to nearly 40 per cent of KPN, as the tender offer closed.
The company said it would now buy the remaining 2.82 per cent of shares it needs to complete the tender as originally proposed through a scale-down procedure.
If America Movil were to buy 30 per cent of the company, it would have to make an offer for the rest of KPN under Dutch law. The Mexican company has given no indication it wants to acquire a larger stake.
America Movil outflanked KPN’s management, who had openly opposed the Mexican company’s bid and encouraged shareholders not to tender their shares.
KPN’s management argued that it could produce better shareholder returns without Slim, possibly by selling its German mobile phone business E-Plus and Belgian unit BASE.
But efforts to sell E-Plus, possibly via a merger with Spanish group Telefonica’s O2 Germany unit, flopped last week, when KPN said that a sale was not possible in the current market.
“America Movil is pleased to have achieved its objective of securing a meaningful minority stake in KPN,” Chief Financial Officer Carlos Garcia Moreno said in a written statement to Reuters.
“As a supportive, long-term shareholder, we now look forward to an on-going, constructive dialogue with KPN and to leveraging America Movil’s significant scale and financial strength for the benefit of all KPN stakeholders,” he added.
Two weeks ago, America Movil boosted its stake in Telekom Austria to 23 per cent after buying out investor Ronny Pecik. Additionally, the Slim family disclosed they held another 3.14 per cent voting stake in the Austrian firm.
Unlike his Latin American expansion, where the entrepreneur purchased much bigger stakes or entire companies, the 72-year-old Slim has taken a more cautious approach in Europe as tighter regulation and tougher competition pose a different challenge to the world’s richest man.
“These are strategies seeking long-term benefits. It is an investment where (Slim) won’t have to make huge (capital expenditures for now). If Europe improves, those shares will be worth a lot more and that is what these moves are betting for,” said Gerardo Copca, analyst with MetAnalisis brokerage.
Last week, Garcia Moreno hinted on a conference call with analysts that America Movil was done, for now, with purchases in Europe.
Any more spending on their part could pressure the company’s leverage, potentially calling for a debt downgrade from rating agencies.
The companies in Austria and the Netherlands have a combined base of 57 million wireless clients and operate in 12 different countries.
America Movil ended March with 246 million wireless subscribers in Latin America and the United States. The company also has fixed-lines, broadband, and pay television services in the region. — Reuters