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America Movil shares sink, European strategy up in air

The logo of America Movil is seen on the wall of the reception area in the company's corporate offices in Mexico City February 13, 2013. REU
The logo of America Movil is seen on the wall of the reception area in the company's corporate offices in Mexico City February 13, 2013. REU

By Elinor Comlay

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Shares in America Movil fell nearly 3 percent on Friday after Latin America's biggest phone company reported a sharply lower profit and on concerns over the investment strategy of billionaire Carlos Slim's flagship company.

On a conference call on Friday, a day after the company released quarterly earnings, analysts repeatedly asked questions about America Movil's plans in Europe. The company announced last week it would not proceed with a planned offer for Dutch phone company KPN.

"We don't have to take any decision on that and ... we don't have any hurry on that," said Chief Executive Daniel Hajj, in response to a question about what America Movil will do with its stake in KPN.

"The board wants to have open alternatives to do what we feel is best," said Hajj, who is also Slim's son-in-law.

America Movil's investments in KPN and Telekom Austria, made last year, have driven up debt and contributed to the financial expenses that almost halved its third-quarter profit.

Some investors are concerned that America Movil's near 23 percent investment in Telekom Austria could follow a similar path as its KPN investment, where a rights issue earlier this year forced America Movil to buy more shares at a lower price to maintain its participation.

Hajj said he is not aware of any decision by Telekom Austria about any rights issue and he tried to assure analysts that the Austrian company is a different proposition than KPN.

"What I can tell you - it's different the way they operate, the way they do things," he said.

America Movil had accumulated nearly 30 percent of KPN but that position was effectively chopped in half when a foundation set up to protect the interests of KPN shareholders executed an option to acquire almost 50 percent of KPN's voting stock.

That move appeared to catch Slim's company off guard and a spokesman said at the time that America Movil had been shown "a total lack of respect.

America Movil shares were down 2.6 percent at 13.23 pesos in late morning trading.

The company has been aggressively buying back shares to support its stock price this year. That strategy will continue, executives said on the call.

(Reporting by Elinor Comlay; editing by Simon Gardner and Matthew Lewis)

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