Sponsored By

Liberty Latin America in Talks to Buy MillicomLiberty Latin America in Talks to Buy Millicom

A merger between the two companies would create one of the region's biggest telcos, giving it the muscle it needs to compete against other big players.

Iain Morris

January 15, 2019

3 Min Read
Liberty Latin America in Talks to Buy Millicom

Liberty Latin America is in talks to acquire Millicom in a deal that would create a major telecom force in the Latin American market, the two companies have confirmed in separate statements.

Backed by US cable tycoon John Malone, Liberty Latin America said it had submitted a "preliminary, highly conditional, non-binding proposal regarding a possible transaction," without disclosing any financial details.

A merger would give rise to one of Latin America's biggest telcos and help the companies withstand competition from major regional players such as Telefónica and América Móvil.

Spun off from Liberty Global last year, Liberty Latin America currently operates in 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. It generated about $2.8 billion in revenues, and $361 million in operating income, for the first nine months of 2018.

Headquartered in Luxembourg, Millicom International Cellular SA (Nasdaq: MICC) has a presence in nine Latin American countries as well as the African markets of Chad and Tanzania, serving 51 million customers in total last year. It generated revenues of $4.5 billion for the first nine months of 2018 and earnings (before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) of about $1.6 billion.

Confirming its receipt of a bid from Liberty, Millicom said: "There is no certainty that a transaction will materialize nor as to the terms, timing or any form of any possible transaction."

Any deal would mark a continuation of the M&A trend that has swept the global telecom market in past few years, as operators look to build scale amid numerous business and regulatory challenges.

For all the latest news from the wireless networking and services sector, check out our dedicated mobile content channel here on Light Reading.

But a merger would also threaten job losses as the companies worked to reduce costs by removing duplicate roles. Liberty had around 10,300 employees at the end of 2017, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, while Millicom employed 19,127 workers on the same date and has seen its headcount rise in the past few years, in contrast to many of its international peers. (See AT&T, Time Warner Shed 11K Workers in First 9 Months of 2018.)

The big five European incumbents of BT (UK), Deutsche Telekom (Germany), Orange (France), Telecom Italia and Telefónica (Spain) cut nearly 33,000 jobs between 2015 and September last year, or nearly 5% of total headcount, according to research carried out by Light Reading. US telco giant AT&T slashed around 38,000 jobs over the same period, while Verizon has cut 25,400.

In markets where both Liberty and Millicom have a presence, the takeover could face opposition from regulatory authorities concerned about its impact on competition. Authorities have frequently blocked M&A activity in Europe because of similar competition concerns.

— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Iain Morris

International Editor, Light Reading

Iain Morris joined Light Reading as News Editor at the start of 2015 -- and we mean, right at the start. His friends and family were still singing Auld Lang Syne as Iain started sourcing New Year's Eve UK mobile network congestion statistics. Prior to boosting Light Reading's UK-based editorial team numbers (he is based in London, south of the river), Iain was a successful freelance writer and editor who had been covering the telecoms sector for the past 15 years. His work has appeared in publications including The Economist (classy!) and The Observer, besides a variety of trade and business journals. He was previously the lead telecoms analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, and before that worked as a features editor at Telecommunications magazine. Iain started out in telecoms as an editor at consulting and market-research company Analysys (now Analysys Mason).

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like