Bell Atlantic wants stake in Mexican cellular company


PHILADELPHIA -- Bell Atlantic Corp. and Grupo Iusacell S.A. said they are in talks for an agreement under which Bell Atlantic would acquire a stake in the Mexican company.

Such an agreement would combine Bell Atlantic, the Philadelphia-based regional Bell operating company and parent of the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. of Maryland, with Mexico City-based Grupo Iusacell, the second-largest telecommunications company in Mexico.

It would also give Bell Atlantic a foothold in the potentially huge Mexican cellular market. Grupo Iusacell's has cellular properties which cover almost two-thirds of Mexico's population, including Mexico City, the world's largest city.

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Bell Atlantic was close to an agreement to buy a 49 percent stake in Grupo Iusacell for as much as $1 billion, quoting people involved in talks between the companies. Iusacell spokesman Alfredo Castillo could not confirm the figure. Mexican law forbids a stake greater than 49 percent for any foreign cellular provider.

Mr. Castillo said the signing was originally planned for this week, but was postponed at the request of Bell Atlantic. Bell Atlantic and Grupo Iusacell said they would make a joint announcement if an agreement was reached. They weren't more specific.

Shares of Bell Atlantic closed down 75 cents, at $60.375.

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