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Carlos Slim Case Study

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Carlos Slim Helú was born on January 28, 1940. He is a Mexicanbusiness magnate and philanthropist who is currently ranked as therichest person in the worldin 2012. Slim has beenranked the richest person in the world since 2010. His extensive holdings in a considerablenumber of Mexican companies through hisconglomerate,Grupo Carso,SA de CV, haveamassed interests in the fields of communications, technology, retailing, and finance. Presentlyhe is the chairman and chief executive of telecommunications companiesTelmexandAméricaMóvil. Carlos Slim was born inMexico City,Mexico in 1940 toMaroniteChristian parents Julián SlimHaddad and Linda Helú, both of Lebanesedescent. His father, born as Khalil Slim Haddad,immigrated to Mexico at the age of 14 in 1902 and changed his first name to Julián. As it wasnot uncommon for Lebanese children to be sent abroad before they reached the age of 15 toavoid being conscripted into theOttomanarmy, four of Haddad’s older brothers were alreadyliving in Mexico at the time of his arrival.Carlos Slim’s mother, Linda Helú, was born in Parral,Chihuahua,of Lebanese parents who hadimmigrated to Mexico in the late 19th century. Her parents upon immigrating to Mexico hadfounded one of the first Arabic language magazines for theLebanese-Mexicancommunity, usinga printing press they had brought with them.

In 1911, Julián established adry goodsstore, La Estrella del Oriente (The Star of the Orient). By1921, he had purchased real estate in the flourishing commercial district of Mexico City. Theseenterprises became the source of considerable wealth. In August 1926, Julián Slim and LindaHelú married. They had six children: Nour, Alma, Julián, José, Carlos and Linda. Julián senior,who had been influential in the Lebanese-Mexican business community, died in 1953.In 1982, as Mexico lurched towards a financial crisis so brutal it triggered the Latin Americandebt crisis, Mexican and international investors desperately wanted to exit from Mexico, exceptfor one: Carlos Slim.That was the year Mr Slim, now the richest man in the world but then the little-known 42-year-old son of Lebanese immigrants, set out on a shopping spree to buy Mexican companies at fire-sale prices across industries as diverse as aluminum, tobacco, insurance and rubber.This week he was at it again, only this time his arena was debt-plagued Europe going throughEuro crises . Mr Slim’s América Móvil,the largest telecoms operator in Latin America announced that it intended to bump up its 4.8 per cent stake in KPN, the ailing Dutch telecoms outfit, to as much as 28 per cent in a €3.2bn deal. Eduardo Garcia, founder of the business websiteSentido Común,says that buying struggling companies in hard times defines Mr Slim’s business style. “Nobody is betting on Europe but Slim views things in a different manner

” he says. “He can often see what the future holds.”
Hegets in when every body is running.
Ignacio Cobo, a business partner and Mr Slim’s closestfriend, told the Financial Times this week: “Carlos sees three dimensions when everyone else just sees two.

”It is not clear whether Mr Slim’s first significant investment outside the Americas will pay off. The 72-year-old has tried to break into Europe before, in particular in2007 when an attack onTelecom Italia was beaten off.But his value-investing approach has to date earned him a $69bnfortune, according to Forbes.That approach drew him into the now-booming Brazilian telecoms market in 2002, when fears of a socialist government under then newly elected Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva were crushing pricesin Brazil. No investor wanted to enter Brazil because of Lula strong views against USA. It alsoled him into Argentina when it was still in disarray after financial collapse in 2001. Now asimilarly distressed situation has led him to the eurozone: shares in KPN, which has operations inGermany, Belgium and Spain, had fallen 30 per cent this year before Mr Slim made his move.Mr Slim is meticulous in seeking out the bargains he loves.

Trained as a civil engineer, andhaving taught algebra and linear programming while studying, he can read a balance sheet likemost people read the sports pages. Every day, he receives one piece of paper packed in miniaturefont with the latest figures of the 200-odd companies that comprise his business empire. “He would always say to me that numbers speak to him,” says Mr Cobo. That probably explainsMr Slim’s love of baseball though he rarely watches a game, preferring to keep up by readingfinancial figures in bulk.For all his wealth, MrSlim cultivates an image of disarming understatement.At a 2007 statedinner with George W. Bush, one guest was startled to see him sitting on the scruffy seat of a bus hired for the event. “He could have arrived with great fanfare,” recalls the guest. “But there he was, just waiting patiently and not a bodyguard in sight.”

Miguel Alemán Velasco, a friend of Mr Slim for the past 40 years, recalls imploring thebillionaire in the early 1990s to upgrade to a bullet-proofed Mercedes- Benz. “Mexico was getting more dangerous but Carlos just didn’t see the need,” he recalls. “He was happy with hisChevy.” While his living style is simple and is clearly convenient in a society with yawning inequalities, friends insist it is not just a show. “He just likes simple things,” says an acquaintance. Before he had open-heart surgery in 1997, he would often slip away from formal dinners for a hot dog froma street vendor. Today, when at home, he takes off his shoes and socks and walks around thehouse barefoot.

A widower since Soumaya, his wife, died in 1999, he surrounds himself with his six children.The family meets twice a week to eat. His grandchildren often drop by after school. He has kept his parents’ home as it was when they were alive and has a 1941 bottle -green Cadillac like the one his father owned. “I never drive it,” he told the F inancial Times. “But I often open the door,get behind the wheel and sit there thinking about life, and about my father.” Introduced to entrepreneurship by his father, who founded The Orient Star general store, he showed immediateflair: according to relations, he used get-togethers to sell sweets and cigarettes.He went from strength to strength. But what catapulted him into the mega-rich league was the1982 purchase of Cigatam, a tobacco company that generated a huge free cash flow. Thatenabled him to fund future acquisitions and, in 1991, to buy Telefonos de Mexico, the state telecoms monopoly.

Critics say he has used Telmex’s dominant position to keep pricesartificially high and to stifle competition,charges he denies. They also point out that Mr Slimbuilt his fortune in a country where about half the population lives below the poverty line. Thecompetition authorities recently fined him almost $1bn for the alleged monopolistic practices of América Móvil.The heart of the dispute was the interconnection charge it imposed on otheroperators. But last week, in return for concessions, theregulator dropped the fine. There is no doubt the cash Telmex generated at home gave markets confidence to fund hisexpansion abroad, including a 16 per cent stake in Saks, the department store, and a 7.3 per centstake in theNew York Times.Today his telecoms empire has 246m mobile subscribers acrossthe Americas. It is possible that Mr Slim sees Europe and his KPN deal, in additional to itsfinancial merits, as a way to learn how best to exploit Latin America’s booming telecoms markets as they mature.Asked in the 2007 interview about his accumulation of colossal wealth, Mr Slim insisted he remained down to earth. “Regardless of whether I am first or one thousandth [ric hest in the world], I am not going to take anything with me to the grave.”

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