Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica SA (>> Telefonica SA) has expressed interest in buying AT&T Inc's (>> AT&T Inc.) pay TV assets in Latin America, which could be valued at around $10 billion (7 billion pounds), according to people familiar with the matter.
AT&T bought the Latin American assets as part of its acquisition of DirecTV last year. The business includes satellite and cable television services in Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina and several other countries.
The U.S. telecoms company has yet to decide if it will explore a deal with Telefonica or another company, the people familiar with the matter said.
Other parties are interested in AT&T's assets in specific countries, and the company may choose to run several sale processes, one of the people said. One potential buyer could be Liberty Global Plc (>> Liberty Global PLC), that person added.
The sources asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential.
Telefonica and AT&T declined to comment. Liberty Global could not immediately be reached for comment.
AT&T has about 19 million pay TV subscribers in Central and South America, making it the biggest player in the region. But profits have been pressured by depreciating currencies in Brazil and other Latin American countries.
Chief Executive Randall Stephenson said at an industry conference in December that AT&T would consider selling the Latin American business, but that the company was patient.
"So if somebody were interested in talking about a strategic combination of those assets with a different product, we would have to look at it. Would we consider selling them? Yes, but we are in no rush," Stephenson said.
Telefonica, which has debt of about 50 billion euros ($54 billion), has been shuffling its portfolio in recent months. It agreed to sell its O2 UK business to CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd (>> CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd) for 10.3 billion pounds ($15 billion). It is also planning to sell or spin off its Spanish infrastructure unit, including wireless towers, later this year, Reuters previously reported.
The Spanish company is a major wireless player in Latin America under the brands Movistar in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Mexico; it also owns Vivo in Brazil. Telefonica's regional pay TV operations, however, are smaller, and trail AT&T and American Movil's Claro.
AT&T owns about 93 percent of Sky Brasil, the largest satellite provider in the region's biggest economy. It owns PanAmericana, which offers satellite TV services under the DirecTV brand in countries including Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Puerto Rico. It is also a shareholder in Sky Mexico, which is controlled by Mexico's Grupo Televisa (>> Grupo Televisa SAB).
(Reporting by Liana B. Baker and Malathi Nayak in New York; Additional reporting by Andres Gonzalez in Madrid; Editing by Tiffany Wu)
By Liana B. Baker and Malathi Nayak