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Ecuador's competition watchdog fines America Movil subsidiary

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[February 10, 2014]  By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO (Reuters)  Ecuador's markets watchdog said on Sunday it fined the local subsidiary of Latin America's largest phone company, America Movil <AMXL.MX>, $138.4 million for anti-competitive practices.

The Superintendent of Market Control said the subsidiary, Claro, had "impeded" other local cellphone providers and that the fine represented "10 percent of all its business in 2012."

Claro called the move "unjustified and disproportionate" and accused the authorities of inconsistency.

The watchdog acted after a complaint by the State Telecommunications Corporation (CNT), a public company that also provides cellphone services. CNT accused Claro of anti-competitive behavior by signing exclusivity contracts with the owners of land where Claro's transmission towers are located.

Claro is Ecuador's biggest mobile operator, with a 63.8 percent market share and about 15.5 million subscribers. Its parent company, America Movil, is controlled by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

A third cellphone provider, a subsidiary of the Spanish telecoms company Telefonica <TEF.MC>, also operates in Ecuador.

Claro said in a statement that the fine was unfair, and said it "noted the existence of inconsistencies in the process which undermine due process and the right to a defense."

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The company said it would seek to challenge the resolution in court.

Telefonica's subsidiary has 32.8 percent of the cellphone market, according to the official Communications Superintendent, while the state company CNT has the remaining 3.4 percent.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; writing by Daniel Wallis; editing by Leslie Adler)

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