Mexican tycoon may pull offer for KPN stock


SHARES IN Dutch telecoms group Royal KPN dropped yesterday on expectations Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim may pull his offer for the company’s stock after successfully scooping up more than a fifth of the equity.

Mr Slim’s telecom group America Movil said on Thursday it had raised its stake in KPN to 21 per cent as part of a strategy to increase its presence in Europe, taking it towards a stated target of a maximum 27.7 per cent.

Now some market participants say Mr Slim may cancel his €8 per share offer and keep buying shares cheaper on the market.

“The stake he bought on Thursday is a sledgehammer blow to KPN. His bid is for €8 per KPN share. He can still buy a further 7 per cent on the market,” said asset manager Ed Manie of Dutch fund management firm Keijser Capital.

“It would not surprise me if he cancels his bid. That’s why there’s an exodus of KPN investors.”

Investors offering their KPN shares to America Movil also had no guarantee of all their stock being bought because the Mexican company would only partially buy up stock if the amount tendered surpassed what it needed, analyst Jos Versteeg at private bank Theodoor Gilissen told Dutch TV.

By keeping below 30 per cent, America Movil – which has already obtained a stake in Telekom Austria as part of a broader European expansion effort – avoids having to make a bid for the whole of KPN, as Dutch law would require.

America Movil is looking to Europe having run out of potential takeover targets on its home turf in Latin America.

Last week the company agreed to buy a 21 per cent stake in Telekom Austria for around €1.1 billion, which would bring its stake to 23 per cent in total.

KPN had tried to combine its German unit E-Plus with Telefonica’s German business O2 as a defence to Mr Slim’s offer but failed to pull off that plan.

Now with Mr Slim in an increasingly strong position at KPN, some said prospects for its shareholders were looking less rosy.

“The way he runs his companies in South America is quick and dirty and shaking things up. Spoilt KPN investors who received a good dividend and share buybacks will see this come to an end,” Mr Manie said. – (Reuters)