NII Jumps as CEO Says Sale Near of Towers in Brazil, Mexico

NII Holdings Inc. rose to the highest price in nine months after Chief Executive Officer Steven Shindler said the company is “very close” to a deal to sell wireless towers in Brazil and Mexico.

The shares jumped 16 percent to $9.43 at the close in New York, the highest since July 2012. NII, which plunged 67 percent last year, has more than doubled since announcing the sale of its Peruvian unit on April 4.

The company, which provides Nextel mobile-phone service in Latin America, plans to sell about 4,500 towers by the middle of this year, Shindler said in an interview. Reston, Virginia-based NII will use the proceeds of the sale of the towers and its Peru unit to expand networks and marketing in Brazil and Mexico, where it’s concentrating the bulk of $1 billion in capital spending this year, Shindler said.

“Mexico and Brazil are the most significant growth opportunities for us,” Shindler said yesterday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Lima. “There’s a big push for data, but there’s obviously still a very significant need for voice.”

NII agreed to sell the unit to Chile’s Empresa Nacional de Telecomunicaciones SA for $400 million as the company struggles in Latin America against larger competitors such as America Movil SAB and Telefonica SA. NII, which posted a $593 million loss in the fourth quarter, said new 3G networks should help it gain more subscribers. The company plans to lease back the Brazil and Mexico towers after they are sold.

The company is “on track” to introduce 3G and smartphones in Mexico in the third quarter and in Brazil by year-end, he said.

Mexican legislation aimed at boosting competition in the telecommunications industry, by allowing foreigners to hold majority stakes in local units, is “a good trend,” Shindler said. NII, which has 4 million customers in Mexico, will double its target market to 50 million with the introduction of smartphones, he said.

“The changes that are being discussed in the telecom act create a better environment for us,” he said. “We think we can compete and get back to growing in a profitable manner.”

The company is scheduled to report first-quarter earnings on May 2.

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