T Italia's Latino Lunge

4:50 AM -- Telecom Italia (TIM) is taking control of Telecom Argentina (NYSE: TEO) by increasing its stake in Sofora Telecomunicaciones S.A., the holding company that owns the Argentine operator, from 50 percent to 58 percent. (See T Italia Ups Sofora Stake.)

The move, which doesn’t involve any payment (instead, Telecom Italia is relinquishing "call option" rights on Sofora stock), is part of a trend among European operators to boost their presence in the Latin American market. (See Euro Carriers Catch Latino Fever, Vivo's Value, Viva La Vivo Deal, and Vivendi Floors Telefónica.)

Telecom Argentina had (at June 30) about 15.3 million mobile customers and 4.1 million fixed-line subscribers, including 1.3 million hooked up to a broadband connection. In the first six months of 2010, the operator generated revenues of 6.7 billion Argentine Pesos (US$1.7 billion), an increase of 17 percent from a year earlier, and net income of 865 million Pesos ($219 million), up 23 percent year-on-year.

The operator commands a 31 percent share (by revenues) of the Argentine telecom services market, making it the second-largest carrier in Latin America's fourth-largest market, according to a recent Pyramid Research report. (See Telecom Market Spotlight: Latin America.)

The Pyramid team expects the Argentine market to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.5 percent up to 2014.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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