Billionaire George Soros Bets on Brazil’s Wireless Boom
Quattro Telecomunicacoes, a Brazilian holding company that Soros acquired earlier this year, is angling to buy more 4G wireless airwaves in the country’s next government auction. The spectrum would be used to deliver high-speed Internet service to mobile devices in Latin America’s biggest economy.
The company is making the investments through its Sunrise Telecomunicacoes division, a pay-TV provider that is expanding into mobile services. Sunrise already spent 19.1 million reais ($9.3 million) to acquire two spectrum licenses for offering fourth-generation wireless access. The licenses cover 134 cities in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous area.
“We’re on the lookout for opportunities,” Fares Nassar, the president of Quattro Telecomunicacoes, said in an interview yesterday from Sao Paulo. “There are several states that have similar characteristics to Sao Paulo state that interest us.”
Soros, 81, agreed to initially invest 500 million reais in Sunrise, Nassar said. That could be increased for future licenses, he said. Right now, the company is studying its business plan to determine how to use the airwaves it acquired.
Soros’s net worth has increased 3.1 percent this year to $21.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He ranks 19th on the list of the world’s richest people. Carlos Slim -- who made much of his fortune from the Latin American wireless market -- ranks first, with $68.3 billion.
Sunrise also could get more financing from banks or network-equipment sellers, Nassar said.
“We’re analyzing a combination of financing options,” he said. “The options under review are local and foreign banks, direct vendor financing or an increase in Soros’s investment, because it would provide more speed and the opportunity to expand even more geographically.”
Nassar said he persuaded Soros to invest in Brazilian telecommunications during a promotional tour in November in the U.S., selling him on the promise of Brazil’s growth and the potential of high-speed wireless Internet access.
Anatel, Brazil’s telecommunications commission, plans to hold another spectrum auction by early next year, an effort to attract new investors to the industry, Joao Rezende, the agency’s president, said in an interview this month.
Sunrise doesn’t intend to directly compete with the big wireless carriers, such as Slim’s America Movil SAB and Telefonica SA. (TEF) Instead, it will offer a complementary service that lets Wi-Fi devices connect to mobile-phone networks, Nassar said. The company’s 4G service may begin in 18 to 24 months, said Carlos Andre de Albuquerque, Sunrise’s president.
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