AT&T Inc. (T) is making an anticipated foray into the Mexican wireless business with the $2.5 billion purchase of Iusacell SA from Grupo Salinas.
"Mexico is still in the early stages of mobile Internet capabilities and adoption, but customer demand for it is growing rapidly," AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said in a press release announcing the deal on Friday.
Iusacell, Mexico's third-largest mobile carrier, would complement the satellite TV operations in Mexico and other Latin American countries that AT&T would gain through the pending $67.1 billion purchase of DirecTV Group Inc. (DTV) Iusacell could also be a launching pad for other acquisitions in Mexico.
Though AT&T had indicated an interest in Latin America, a purchase of assets from Carlos Slim Helu's América Móvil SA had seemed more likely.
América Móvil has acknowledged putting assets on the market, after regulators proposed restrictions on dominant communications companies if they did not split up their holdings.
BTIG LLC analyst Walter Piecyk suggested in a Monday note that more deals could follow.
"The acquisition of Iusacell for $2.5 billion gives AT&T less than 10% wireless market share in Mexico, but could set the stage to layer on additional regional assets in Mexico that América Móvil is attempting to sell or even assets from the bankrupt [NII Holdings Inc.] (NIHD) ," Piecyk wrote.
The analyst values the Iuscell purchase at 20 cents per megahertz per person covered, and $145 per subscriber.
"While there are no details on what is being sold by América Móvil, most indications are that it would be regional assets and do not include Mexico City," the analyst wrote.
AT&T has been open about exploring international deals.
The Dallas telecom considered making a bid for Vodafone Group plc (VOD) , after the U.K. telecom sold its minority stake in Verizon Wireless, but later shifted focus to the Americas.
At a September investor conference, AT&T chief strategy officer John Stankey said the company would be "asleep at the wheel" if it did not look at opportunities in Latin America and Mexico. "Mexico is the place that's [poised] to move into an incredible growth cycle," he said.
Mexican holding company Grupo Salinas owns half of Iusacell, and previously announced that it would buy the other half. The sale to AT&T will occur once Grupo Salinas consolidates its holdings.
JPMorgan Securities LLC and Goldman, Sachs & Co. were financial advisers to AT&T.
The JPMorgan team included Kurt Simon, Moises Mainster, Ignacio Benito, Eduardo Cepeda, Felipe Garcia-Moreno, Marco Caggiano, Xavier Loriferne, Andre Maciel and Andre Verdasca.
The Goldman bankers included Michael Ronen, Andy Gordon, Santiago Rubin and Martin Werner.
AT&T received U.S. counsel from Sullivan & Cromwell LLP lawyers Sergio Galvis, Werner Ahlers, Nader Mousavi, Zachary Jacobs, Mimi Butler, Sergio Garcia Belmonte, Benjamin Fidler, Neal McKnight, Ari Blaut and Daniel Biller.
In Mexico, AT&T retained Galicia Abogados SC lawyers Manuel Galicia, José Visoso, Carlos Chávez and Eugenio Sepúlveda, and associates Ramiro Sandoval, Juan Pablo Patiño, Ana Montesinos, Marcela Gómez Morin and Fernanda Luna.
Grupo Salinas retained Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP lawyers Patrick Campbell, Ariel Deckelbaum, Tom de la Bastide,Ross Fieldston, David Huntington, Sarah Mudho and Scott Sontag,
Nader, Hayaux & Goebel provided counsel to Grupo Salinas in Mexico.