América Móvil (NYSE:AMX), the telecommunications giant controlled by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu, announced Wednesday that it is withdrawing its $9.7 billion bid to buy the remaining 70 percent stake in Dutch cellphone company KPN N.V. (AMS:KPN).
The decision to abandon the deal came after the KPN Foundation, an independent entity that looks out for the interest of KPN’s shareholders, exercised a call option, giving it a nearly 50 percent stake in the company. Such a move makes it impossible for Slim’s offer to be successful, since he needed the support of 50 percent of KPN shareholders to be accepted.
According to AMX, KPN refused to negotiate unless the offer price was raised.
The KPN Foundation, according to Dutch law, has the right to veto any hostile takeovers, but the foundation and KPN sought a better bid than the 2.40 euros ($3.20) per share takeover offered by AMX. KPN reportedly asked for 2.65 euros ($3.50) per share -- a figure that would have raised the total sale price to $10.8 billion. The basis of the demand was that KPN had increased its value after selling its German unit E-Plus to Spanish cell company Telefónica (MCE:TEF).
“The actions taken by the foundation are harming all shareholders in KPN, including those that wanted to accept the bid, as well as the clients, employees and others interested in KPN that look to belong to a solid company with a long-term plan,” said AMX in a statement.
In response, KPN said Thursday that it is still open to pursuing a deal with Slim, the New York Times Dealbook reported. “We don’t have any problems sitting down with them at the table,” said Stefan Simons, spokesman for KPN.
AMX remains an important shareholder in KPN, with a nearly 30 percent stake and two seats on its supervisory board.
But Arturo Elías Ayub, Slim’s spokesman and son-in-law, said AMX had no intentions of resuming talks with a new offer within the six days established by the Dutch stock regulatory authorities after the withdrawal date, Forbes reported. “Our position has been firm, coherent and consistent. We always maintained that we were not going to increase our offer price,” he said.
But Ayub added that the latest development was “not a setback.” “We are always open to consider possibilities in Europe and elsewhere,” he stated.
Indeed, Samuel García, a Mexican financial journalist, told Forbes the withdrawal is simply a “negotiating strategy” on the part of Slim, who, he said, still wants to attain a prominent position in the European telecom landscape.
“The negotiations with KPN are not over yet,” García said.
Moreover, the KPN Foundation maintained hope for further negotiations.
“We have never aimed to block the deal, but to get the two parties to the negotiating table to come to a merger protocol in a suitable way,” a spokesman for the foundation said, according to reports.
When Slim purchased his 30 percent stake in 2012, it represented his first such investment outside the Americas.