Just a week after he topped the Forbes list of the world's richest people, Carlos Slim faces a sweeping new set of regulations in the telecommunications market, which he controls almost exclusively. The bill was introduced in Mexico's congress this week and intends to set up a new agency that will focus on increasing competition in the phone and broadcasting industry. Slim's company, America Móvil, stands to be the biggest loser in this set of reforms since it controls a staggering 70 percent of the country's mobile service and 80 percent of the landlines. The new agency would have the power to break up any company with more than a 50 percent market share.
The legislation raises "the possibility of a Ma Bell-style breakup" for Slim and America Móvil, to borrow Bloomberg News's description. Symbolically speaking, breaking up America Móvil would pull quite a few precious stones out of Slim's crown jewels. It was America Móvil that enabled the billionaire to build his empire, which now includes businesses in sectors ranging from telecom to retail to media, and become the richest man in the world.
Let's not get caught up on Carlos Slim the victim, here, though. The new regulations inevitably aim to provide more access to telecommunications. Despite its relatively larger economy, Mexico lags behind many other Latin American nations in adopting mobile phones and even landline services has been spotty in rural areas of the country for years. "The Mexican market is enormous and there are still millions and millions who are not plugged in," said Jorge Fernando Negrete, the chief executive of a regulatory consulting firm in Mexico City. "The most important part of the reform really deals with tackling poverty through digital inclusion."
Meanwhile, don't worry about old man Carlos Slim. His empire may shake, but his $73 billion fortune is pretty rock solid. All else fails, he buys an island, builds a castle, fills the most with crocodiles and declares victory. Because what fun is being the richest man in the world if you can have your own island, castle and moat?