(Adds market details, Tracfone comments)
By Christine Murray
MEXICO CITY, Feb 11 (Reuters) - America Movil’s planned spinoff of cellphone towers in Mexico into a new company is at an advanced stage and should be up and running by May or June of this year, Chief Executive Daniel Hajj said on Wednesday.
“We are very advanced in the tower spinoff process,” Hajj said in a conference call. The plan will be presented to shareholders in April and hopefully working by May or June of this year, he said.
Hajj added that America Movil, Latin America’s biggest telecommunications company, was discussing with Mexico’s telecoms regulator whether the new company would be considered preponderant in the market and subject to tougher regulations.
It will have around 11,000 sites and compete with the likes of American Tower, which analysts at Itau BBA estimated in January has around 8,400 towers in Mexico.
America Movil, which is controlled by the family of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, said last year it would sell assets in a bid to cut its market share and avoid a regulatory crackdown aimed at boosting competition in Mexico’s telecoms market.
AT&T Inc, a former Slim ally that has been seen as a front-runner to buy the assets, recently agreed to buy Mexico’s No. 3 and No. 4 wireless operators, Iusacell and Nextel. It has downplayed publicly its interest in buying assets from America Movil.
America Movil shares fell 4 percent on Wednesday, a day after the company reported a fourth-quarter profit that was only about a quarter of that expected by analysts. It blamed exchange rate losses for the disappointing results.
It had few new details about its planned asset sale on Wednesday’s call, saying it was still working on the process and was considering various divestments, given the new competitive landscape.
The longer the company holds a market share of more than 50 percent, the longer it is subject to tougher rules introduced by President Enrique Pena Nieto as part of a wider economic reform drive.
It added almost 1 million new mobile subscribers in Mexico in the fourth quarter.
America Movil’s U.S. business Tracfone, which does not have its own network but pays carriers such at AT&T for use of their networks, ended 2014 with 26 million clients.
When asked if America Movil would consider selling the unit, considering its possible attractive valuation, Hajj said the company was “open to everything”. He added that owning its own network would be difficult. (Additional reporting by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Simon Gardner and Paul Simao)