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Mexico's Iusacell Loses 600,000 Customers Due to Clean-Up

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The Mexican mobile market finished the year on 77.93m customers with a below par performance for customer growth in Q4 2008. In fact, the quarterly increase of 2.24m was the smallest gain since Q2 06 and the smallest fourth quarter gain in five years. The main cause of this was Iusacell's loss of 0.56m customers as the result of a customer clean up programme.

However, the other operators also saw slightly disappointing figures for quarterly net additions, with all three recording a gain below that of Q4 07. The result was a marked slowdown in annual customer growth: from 21.2% in 2007, the rate fell to 13.4% in 2008, the first time it has dropped below 15% since Q4 03. However, with penetration at 70.5% at the end of the year, the decline may not be inexorable, and it is possible that 2009 will see a slight upturn.

Market leader Telcel (America Movil) recorded a quarterly gain of 1.99m customers in Q4 08, its lowest fourth-quarter increase since 2003. However, Iusacell's net loss saw Telcel improve its market share for the first time in two years. It recorded a 0.5pp quarter-on-quarter increase to finish the year with 72.3%, although this was down on the end-2007 share of 72.8%. In real terms, its year-end customer base stood at 56.37m. Second-placed Movistar (Telefonica Moviles) also saw a poor fourth-quarter gain of 0.67m, less than half the year-earlier gain of 1.46m. Nevertheless, it too improved its market share to 19.7%, a 1.5pp gain compared to the end-2007 figure. Its total customer base reached 15.33m thanks to annual growth of 22.3%, compared to 46.6% in 2007.

Fourth operator Nextel led the market for growth with an annual gain of 27.4%. It finished the year on 2.73m, just 0.78m behind Iusacell which closed on 3.51m. Since Iusacell's merger with Unefon, Nextel has been gaining on its larger rival, but this was the first quarter in which it was less than 1m adrift. Although Iusacell is likely to see a revival following its clean- up, the consistency of Nextel's growth, with net additions of between 0.13m and 0.17m in each of the past eight quarters, means that any other slips on the part of Iusacell could make the contest very close indeed.

Cumulative Change in Market Share compared to Q4 06

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Tags: tim  ovi  telefonica  telcel  iusacell  nextel  Mexico