* Regulators blocked Televisa-Iusacell deal
* Companies pondering challenging ruling
(Updates with comments from Salinas counsel)
By Cyntia Barrera
MEXICO CITY, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Mexican cellphone firm Iusacell said on Thursday it has not considered selling the entire company, assuming its deal with broadcaster Televisa is never approved by regulators.
In a 3-to-2 vote, Mexico’s competition watchdog Cofeco blocked Televisa’s planned $1.6 billion bid for a 50 percent stake in Iusacell, cementing tycoon Carlos Slim’s dominance of Mexico’s mobile market, the companies said on Wednesday. [ID:nL2E8D1LFM]
Analysts have speculated that one option might be for Iusacell to offer itself for sale instead.
“I think it is something that has not been considered, it is not in the plans,” Iusacell director of compliance Eduardo Ruiz Vega told Reuters when asked about the possibility of a sale.
Iusacell vowed on Wednesday to challenge the decision by the antitrust agency Cofeco, which it said did nothing to improve competition in Latin America’s second-biggest economy.
Televisa (TLVACPO.MX), which has already invested $1.6 billion in Iusacell, hinted it would do the same. The pair have 30 work days to challenge Cofeco’s decision. Once regulators review the case, they can change or ratify their decision.
“We are confident in the judicial, economic and competition viability of the project,” Ruiz Vega said.
Televisa and Iusacell wanted to combine forces to challenge Slim in a cellphone market that has made him one of the world’s richest men.
But concerns about the tie-up between two of Mexico’s other wealthiest men -- Televisa’s boss Emilio Azcarraga and Iusacell’s owner Ricardo Salinas -- may have fanned concerns that the pair could also fix advertising prices for anyone trying to sell products or services through their other channels.
Televisa also owns broadband backbone Bestel, soccer teams and a massive stadium in Mexico City, a publishing house, Latin America’s biggest magazine distribution network, cable television companies and a direct-to-home satellite operation. Salinas’ empire includes retailer Elektra (ELEKTRA.MX), cell phone company Unefon, U.S. Spanish-language network Azteca America, motorbike and scooter-maker Italika, a bank, an insurer and a pension fund.
A scuffle with building security guards on Wednesday slowed officials delivering a still-not-official ruling from Cofeco.[ID:nL2E8D1CU4]
Cofeco representatives arrived, surrounded by federal police, at Iusacell’s Mexico City headquarters in the upmarket Lomas de Chapultepec area carrying documents with the decision.
As the Cofeco team walked up to the Iusacell offices, they were prevented from entering by the building’s security guards, prompting a brief pushing and shoving match in the doorway.
Francisco Borrego, Salinas’ chief legal counsel, told Reuters on Thursday that Iusacell was considering filing a criminal complaint with the attorney general’s office against whoever is found responsible of starting the fight.
“They (Cofeco) tried to push themselves in,” he said.
Cofeco has yet to officially disclose their ruling.
(Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Bernard Orr)
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