By Robert-Jan Bartunek
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - America Movil might yet come back to the table for talks on taking over KPN, the head of the Dutch telecoms group said on Thursday after the Mexican company controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim pulled its offer.
While shares of KPN fell as much as 10 percent on Thursday, those of Telekom Austria, in which America Movil also has a stake, rose as much as 6 percent on speculation Slim's attention could turn to central Europe.
Still, KPN chief executive Eelco Blok said the situation was not yet cut-and-dried.
"I'm not going to say which price we wanted because there is a possibility that we will be sitting around the table again," Blok said on a conference call with journalists.
The Dutch group has said the 2.40 euros per share price America Movil was offering was too low, but Blok declined to say how much it would have wanted to recommend the deal to shareholders.
Blok stressed that the mood during the talks was good and that he expected America Movil to continue to support the company's strategy. But he did not spare his words on the management's view of the takeover offer.
"I have said internally that it seemed like America Movil wanted front-row seats for a dime," Blok said.
By 1026 GMT, KPN shares were down 8 percent at 2.235 euros, making the group by far the worst performer on the STOXX 600 European Telecoms Index, which traded broadly unchanged.
Analysts now expect America Movil to keep its current stake of about 30 percent in the company as it is still sitting on a significant paper loss. It acquired the stake at an average of 3.24 euros per share, according to Bernstein analysts.
KPN was able to resist Slim's advances as an independent foundation tasked with protecting its stakeholders acquired a near 50 percent stake, effectively blocking a hostile takeover.
The Dutch group said it was worth more than 2.40 euros because of developments since the Mexican group made its offer.
STAY DUTCH OR LOOK ELSEWHERE?
KPN secured a higher price for the sale of its German unit E-Plus and will be able to offset a book loss from that sale with the Dutch tax authorities.
One investor in KPN said he expected America Movil to make another bid for the Dutch company once the sale of KPN's German unit E-Plus was cleared by competition authorities.
"I'd expect America Movil back in the game in six months once there is clarity on E-Plus from an antitrust point of view," the investor said.
Analysts and investors expect more consolidation in Europe's fragmented telecoms sector, with some of the biggest groups in the global industry showing an interest.
AT&T Inc Chief Executive Randall Stephenson told a conference in Brussels that he saw a "huge opportunity" for a company to invest in mobile broadband in Europe and reap the kind of profits already being generated from such services in the United States.
By buying stakes in KPN and Telekom Austria, America Movil had sought to leave its home base in the Americas, where its operations stretch from the United States to Argentina.
America Movil also has about 24 percent of Telekom Austria, whose shares stood 2.3 percent higher by 1038 GMT after an initial gain of as much as 6.3 percent.
"People think, maybe Slim is now moving to Telekom Austria if KPN didn't work out. However, this shows that Slim doesn't want to expand in Europe at any cost," said Guenther Schmitt, fund manager at Raiffeisen Capital Management.
(Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek, additional reporting by Angelika Gruber in Vienna; editing by John O'Donnell, Philip Blenkinsop and Patrick Lannin)