Japanese mobile-phone company SoftBank Corp. is considering an investment in Mexican wireless carrier Grupo Iusacell, according to industry sources, in what may be its first foray into the fast-growing Latin American market.
SoftBank, which controls Overland Park-based Sprint Corp. is in advanced stages of reviewing Iusacell’s assets, sources told Bloomberg News.
Iusacell owner Ricardo Salinas, Mexico’s fourth-richest person, said earlier this month that he would soon announce a new “world-class strategic partner” for the company.
Grupo Televisa agreed to sell its half of closely held Iusacell, the third-largest mobile-phone operator in the country, to Salinas for $717 million this month. Televisa took a loss on its investment just three years after it agreed to buy the stake for $1.6 billion, as the carrier struggled to compete in Mexico.
SoftBank would enter Mexico just as new laws open the telecommunications market to foreign investors and set up the industry for intensified competition. The Tokyo-based carrier is also among potential suitors contacted by America Movil SAB, which is preparing to sell assets in Mexico worth as much as $17.5 billion to reduce its market share to appease regulators.
Iusacell controls about 8 percent of Mexico’s mobile market, trailing billionaire Carlos Slim’s America Movil and Madrid-based Telefonica. The new partner in Iusacell needs to have “high technical capacity, to be an international player, and have the financial capacity to face the demand there is in this market,” Luis Nino, a spokesman for Salinas, said when the Televisa exit was announced.
SoftBank is one of multiple potential suitors for Iusacell’s assets.
A spokeswoman for SoftBank declined to comment on whether the company is interested in Iusacell.
SoftBank already has ties with Iusacell, in a roaming agreement that allows SoftBank’s mobile customers to connect to the Internet through Iusacell’s network in Mexico for a flat rate.