América Móvil and Telefónica pay up $1.55bn in Colombian infrastructure dispute

Both América Móvil and Telefónica have paid their shares of the $1.55 billion fine imposed on them by a Colombian court – but América Móvil at least says it is still contesting the decision.

The court fined the company, which operates under the Claro name, and its rival, Telefónica, for the use of public infrastructure and assets, citing a 1994 contract. The agreement originally expired in 2004, but was extended until 2013.

América Móvil, owned by Mexico’s Carlos Slim, was liable for $1.08 billion of the total, with the rest being due from Telefónica, which uses the Movistar trademark in Colombia.

The Colombian finance minister Mauricio Cardenas said last week that between them the two paid $980 million in US dollars and the rest in Colombian pesos. The dollars will be used to pay the country’s international obligations, said Cardenas. “Today there are $980 million more in our accounts abroad and the financing needs for [next] year are lower,” he said, according to Portafolio newspaper.

Reports from Colombia last month said the authorities were open to negotiation on payment terms, but the original due date for the fines was 15 August.

However América Móvil announced in Mexico City last week that it has paid its share, though according to Reuters news agency it is challenging the decision. The company “will exhaust every national and international available legal action to challenge the arbitral award,” the company said, as quoted by the agency.

In August reports from Spain said Telefónica was seeking to appeal to the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, claiming that the fine violates agreements between Colombia and Spain.

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