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Carlos Slim, Mexican Telecom Magnate, Denies His Company Has Monopoly

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MEXICO CITY -- Telephone magnate Carlos Slim denied Tuesday that he has a monopoly on telecommunications in Mexico, disputing a report by an international economic forum that say a lack of competition has cost the country billions.

Slim, who is one of the world's richest people, said his phone companies have either kept prices the same or reduced them. His Telmex company controls 80 percent of Mexico's landline market, while his Telcel controls 70 percent of the mobile phone business.

The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Monday that Mexicans overpaid for telecommunications services by more than $13 billion a year from 2005 to 2009. It said a lack of competition cost Mexico $25 billion a year in the same period.

Slim called those numbers "fantasy."

Telcel is the Mexican arm of America Mobile, Latin America's leading mobile-phone operator.

Slim denied that any of his businesses are monopolies.

"What does monopoly mean? One," he said, adding that "if we have less than 100 percent of the market it means that there are other competitors."

Asked about the potential entry into Mexico's mobile-phone market by the Mexican broadcasting giant Televisa, Slim said he didn't fear competition.

"We aren't afraid of competing with anyone," he said. "What we want is that they invest, that they don't take advantage of our investments."

Televisa, the world's largest producer of Spanish-language programming, announced last April that it would pay $1.6 billion for a 50 percent share of the mobile-phone operator Iusacell. That's a property of the Salinas Group, which operates TV Azteca, the second biggest television operation in Mexico.

The OECD said Iusacell has 4.4 percent of the mobile-phone market and Televisa's entry could generate more competition in the sector.

Mexico's anti-monopoly regulator has made a decision on the Televisa-Iusacell merger, but has not yet made it public.

Slim's companies have pulled their advertising from Televisa and TV Azteca, saying they overcharge, and he has accused the two TV operations of monopolistic practices. He has been trying to get the government's permission to enter Mexico's pay-television market, a request that has been opposed by Televisa.

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