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Millicom backs out of deal to buy Telefónica's Costa Rica unit

Millicom said Spain-based operator failed to gain regulatory approvals in time.

Anne Morris

May 4, 2020

2 Min Read
Millicom backs out of deal to buy Telefónica's Costa Rica unit

Telefónica's plan to offload its Costa Rica unit as part of a general slimming down of its portfolio came up against a major hurdle over the weekend, after Millicom said it had terminated the agreement.

The Luxembourg-based operator, which provides fixed and mobile services in Latin America and Africa under the Tigo brand, provided little information beyond indicating that Telefónica had failed to secure all regulatory approvals by the due date of May 1, 2020, granting it the right to pull out.

However, Telefónica said last week that all the conditions needed for completing the acquisition had been met, and it would sue Millicom if it failed to honor the deal. Reuters reported that the government told local media it had given the necessary authorizations.

In February 2019, Millicom agreed to acquire Telefónica mobile assets in Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua for $1.65 billion, with the Costa Rican deal accounting for $570 million of this amount. The other two deals are said to be unaffected.

The Spain-based operator has been offloading assets to fine tune its portfolio, reduce its debts and strengthen its balance sheet. Earlier in 2019, it offloaded two non-strategic operations in Central America, striking a deal to sell its operations in Guatemala and El Salvador to América Móvil for $648 million. (See Telefónica slims down (a bit) with M&A move .)

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A failure to complete the Costa Rica deal would be a blow to the Spanish operator's plan to focus on key markets in Europe and Latin America, and continue to reduce debt. Telefónica said the unit continued to perform well in 2019, reporting a 7% increase in organic operating income and a 21.3% rise in OIBDA (operating income before depreciation and amortization).

Meanwhile, Liberty Global and Telefónica are said to be in talks to combine their UK operations, culminating in an agreement that would effectively pair Virgin Media with Telefónica's O2 mobile business. (See Telefónica, Liberty Global in talks to combine UK ops – report.)

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Anne Morris

Contributing Editor, Light Reading

Anne Morris is a freelance journalist, editor and translator. She has been working in the telecommunications sector since 1996, when she joined the London-based team of Communications Week International as copy editor. Over the years she held the editor position at Total Telecom Online and Total Tele-com Magazine, eventually leaving to go freelance in 2010. Now living in France, she writes for a number of titles and also provides research work for analyst companies.

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