2 de diciembre de 2011 / 3:43 / en 6 años

Mexico court ruling may help Slim avoid $1 bln fine

* Supreme court dismisses regulator’s appeal

* Slim could avoid record fine

By Cyntia Barrera Diaz

Dec 1 (Reuters) - Tycoon Carlos Slim may be able to avoid a record billion-dollar fine after a decision by Mexico’s Supreme Court set him up for an easier ride when regulators reconsider the sanction.

The court dismissed a motion by the head of Mexico’s anti-trust watchdog Eduardo Perez Motta to let him participate in a vote by regulators to review the fine, according to court documents dated Nov. 30.

Perez Motta’s vote was seen as key to ensuring the fine would be upheld, and his inability to participate in the decision might mean Slim’s Mexican unit of America Movil, one of the biggest telecom companies in the world, will avoid the sanction.

“This leaves a bad taste in the mouth because deep inside there are no legal reasons for this to happen the way it happened,” Perez Motta was quoted as saying by daily Reforma on Thursday.

“It means only one thing: I won’t be able to vote on the reconsideration of the Telcel sanction ... it is a closed case for me,” he said.

Competition agency Cofeco slapped America Movil’s Telcel with the fine in April after determining the company charged higher prices to wireless and wireline competitors to connect to its network.

SPLIT BOARD

The decision to sanction Telcel split the five-member Cofeco board: two commissioners voted against it, another one disqualified himself from voting due to a conflict of interest, leaving just one commissioner backing a fine.

Perez Motta, president of Cofeco, used his vote, which counts for two, to push the decision towards a sanction.

Flushed with success, he talked profusely about the agency’s crackdown in local media, prompting Telcel to complain of unfair treatment.

Telcel filed a motion to bar Perez Motta from a second vote where regulators were to decide whether to ratify the fine, a move he appealed. The Supreme court threw out that motion, the documents showed.

The case has raised serious concerns about Mexican regulators’ lack of muscle to counter big corporations and effectively promote competition in a country where key industries like telecoms, cement, and breadmaking have been in the hands of a few, mostly family-run groups for decades.

Cofeco declined further comment and Telcel could not be immediately reached.

A reprieve on the fine would be good news for Slim in a year when his telecommunications empire in Mexico came under heavy scrutiny from regulators and television companies stepped more aggressively into his phone turf.

America Movil’s Mexico shares fell to a more than one-year low in May after the ruling but have since recovered.

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