America Movil, the Mexican conglomerate owned by the world’s richest man Carlos Slim, has moved to take over the whole of KPN, the 160-year-old incumbent Dutch Telco. America Movil plans to table a €7.2 billion ($9.5 billion) bid for remaining issued and outstanding shares in KPN in the Netherlands. The group already owns 30 percent of KPN, having acquired this for €7.2 billion in 2012. If successful, it will mean that a substantial part of the Dutch broadband and pay-TV sector will be owned by companies in the Americas. KPN has around 1.3 million IPTV subscribers, about 25 percent of the total, and accounts for almost all the country’s fixed telephone circuits, totaling around 6.5 million. Then Liberty Global’s UPC Netherlands has around 1.7 million pay-TV subscribers, while also owning 28 percent of the country’s largest pay-TV operator, MSO Ziggo, which has about 2 million TV customers.
Liberty Global has been expanding its European empire over the last few years, taking advantage of favorable prices while the continent is in the economic doldrums. It has acquired that stake in Ziggo, taken over the dominant UK cable operator Virgin Media for $23 billion, while carving out a big slice of the German pay-TV market by buying two MSOs there. These were Unitymedia and Kabel BW, accounting for 6.7 million TV subscribers between them, of which 2.2 million are now digital.
America Movil has now joined the party while prices are still depressed, after running out of substantial options for expansion by acquisition in its Latin American heartland. Slim has just also bought 21 percent of Telekom Austria, another incumbent telco, with a follow-up bid to take over the rest now widely anticipated by analysts. This would make good strategic sense given that KPN and Telekom Austria have already formed an alliance to combine their respective infrastructures to create a fiber-optic backbone serving 35 countries spanning the whole of Europe, including the UK as well as the continent. The network has exchange points in Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Paris, and will most likely be linked to America Movil’s infrastructure in the Americas. So, almost at a stroke, America Movil has acquired a substantial position in Europe’s telco market and is well placed to become a force rivalling Sky and Liberty Global in pay TV. The continent’s two largest telcos, Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica of Spain, are also to be reckoned with, being in expansive mood with pay-TV operations outside their own domestic markets.