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LUSAKA (AFP) — Zambia’s international reserves hit over a billion dollars this year, the highest figure in the country’s history, the central bank governor announced on Saturday.
Caleb Fundanga said Zambia had recorded 1.1 billion dollars in foreign reserves up from 706 million dollars that the country accumulated in 2006.

“Zambia has continued to record favourable external sector performance resulting in an accumulation of gross international reserves of 1.1 billion in December 2007,” Fundanga said in a statement.

“This is the highest the country has ever accumulated,” he added.

He said Zambia’s economy is expected to grow by 6.2 percent in 2008, while the country’s inflation will remain at the single-digit level.

“The overriding objective of monetary policy in 2008 is to consolidate the gains made in establishing price stability by achieving a third consecutive year of single-digit inflation,” Fundanga said.

Zambia’s inflation rate stands at 8.9 percent.

He said the country will face major challenges next year due to the projected rise in prices of petroleum products at the international market and the higher electricity tariffs in the southern African region.

Copyright © 2007 AFP

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MUMBAI: The Anil Agarwal-controlled Vedanta Resources is close to increasing its stake in Konkola Copper Mines in Zambia to 79.4% by buying out a portion of the Zambian government’s holding.

The London-listed Vedanta, which owns 51% stake in Konkola, wants to increase the stake by buying out Zambia Copper Investments’ (ZCI) 28.4% stake in the largest copper mine there. The state-run ZCCM Investment Holdings holds 20.6% stake in Konkola.

“For the acquisition of 51% stake, Vedanta had paid $48.2 million in 2004. As the valuation of the copper mines doubled in three years, it will be curious to know how much Vedanta would be paying for ZCI’s stake,” said a source close to the development. Senior Vedanta officials said the process of acquiring the stake is on. They declined to reveal further details.

Vedanta has been discussing with ZCI the call option, which was agreed when Vedanta bought a 51% stake from the Zambian government in 2004. The company could not exercise the call option as the two parties failed to agree on the valuation of ZCI’s shares.

Adding fuel to fire, Zambian economists and investment analysts have voiced their opposition to Vedanta’s buy-out of national resource. ZCI has only Konkola stake as its asset at present. Vedanta chairman Anil Agarwal recently announced that the two parties had resolved their differences and that an independent valuation is in progress.

While ZCI chairman Tom Kamwendo was quoted by a Zambian daily, “With the resolution of differences over valuation, the next step for the company is to offer its interest to Vedanta.”

Vedanta shares were hoverng below 2,030 pence on London Stock Exchange on Tuesday, down 1.36% on speculation that ZCI may sell its stake through the Lusaka Stock Exchange. On November 23, the share had shot up 12% on market buzz that a Chinese mining company may buy out the promoters’ stake in Vedanta.

“ZCI’s shares in Konkola are being offered to Vedanta rather than being sold through the Lusaka exchange or sold in any other way because that is the provision of the legal agreement that was reached at the time Vedanta was acquiring its current 51% shareholding in Konkola,” said Mr Kamwendo. On public misgivings about the stake increase, Mr Kamwendo said such concerns were better resolved between the Zambian authorities and Vedanta.

Source: Economic Times

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ALTThere was a one hour interview on CNBC with Warren Buffett, the second richest man in America who has donated $31 billion to charity. Here are some very interesting aspects of his life:

1. He bought his first share at age 11 and he now regrets that he started too late!

2. He bought a small farm at age 14 with savings from delivering newspapers.

3. He still lives in the same small 3-bedroom house in mid-town Omaha , that he bought after he got married 50 years ago. He says that he has everything he needs in that house. His house does not have a wall or a fence.

4. He drives his own car everywhere and does not have a driver or security people around him.

5. He never travels by private jet, although he owns the world’s largest private jet company.

6. His company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns 63 companies. He writes only one letter each year to the CEOs of these companies, giving them goals for the year. He never holds meetings or calls them on a regular basis. He has given his CEO’s only two rules. Rule number 1: do not lose any of your share holder’s money. Rule number 2: Do not forget rule number 1.

7. He does not socialize with the high society crowd. His past time after he gets home is to make himself some pop corn and watch Television.

8. Bill Gates, America’s richest man met him for the first time only 5 years ago. Bill Gates did not think he had anything in common with Warren Buffett. So he had scheduled his meeting only for half hour. But when Gates met him, the meeting lasted for ten hours and Bill Gates became a devotee of Warren Buffett.

9. Warren Buffett does not carry a cell phone, nor has a computer on his desk.

His advice to young people: “Stay away from credit cards and invest in yourself and Remember:

A. Money doesn’t create man; it is the man who created money.

B. Live your life as simple as you are.

C. Don’t do what others say, just listen to them, but do what you feel good.

D. Don’t go for brand name; just wear those things in which u feel comfortable.

E. Don’t waste your money on unnecessary things; just spend on those who really are in need.

F. After all it’s your life so why give chance to others to rule your life.”

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LONDON, Oct 10 (Reuters) – Newly Africa-focused Russian investment bank Renaissance Capital has launched a stock index covering 11 markets in sub-Saharan Africa, reflecting growing interest in the region, the bank said on Wednesday.

The RC SSA 50 index is made up of 50 equities and represents 62 percent of the total market capitalisation of the domiciled sub-Saharan equity market, at $61.3 billion, Renaissance Capital, also known as RenCap, said in a statement.

The index covers equities in Botswana, the West African regional stock exchange Bourse Regionale des Valeurs Monetaires (BRVM), Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The base date of the index is Jan. 2, 2007, and the total dollar return of the index since inception is 39 percent, compared with a gain of 29 percent in the benchmark MSCI global emerging equity index, the bank said.

Investors have shown an increasing interest in Africa as they search for higher returns within emerging markets, but lack of liquidity remains a deterrent.

RenCap, a 12-year old firm with brokering, private equity and a $4.5 billion asset management business, told Reuters earlier this year it plans to double its $500 million investment into Africa by next year and aims to help African firms raise capital on global markets.

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By NANCY MWAPE

LuSE abandons plans to link itself to JSE

THE Lusaka Stock Exchange has abandoned an ambitious plan to link with Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)- Securities and Exchange due to cost considerations.

 

Johannesburg Stock Exchange – Africa’s Largest

Last year, LuSE indicated that it was scouting for US$1.1 million to link its operations with JSE Securities and Exchange by this year.

LuSE had also said the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation was studying LuSE’s plan and would fund the project.

But responding to a press query, LuSE general manager, Beatrice Nkhanza, said plans to link with JSE had been abandoned for various reasons among them the cost considerations.

“Plans to link LuSE to JSE have been abandoned for various reasons.

LuSE therefore is going it alone…by sourcing and financing of the system, just like Nairobi, Dar-es Salaam and Botswana,” she said.

Mrs Nkhanza however pointed out that LuSE was in the process of sourcing and installing an automated system and was currently consulting.

She stated the automated system would be operational sometime next year.

Mrs Nkhanza said in the region, only Namibia Stock Exchange was linked to the JSE Securities and
Exchange.

The aim of linking with JSE Securities and Exchange was to integrate network of national securities market in the region.

In 1997 at Livingstone’s Sun hotel, a committee of Southern Africa Development Community Stock Exchange was formed to integrate stock exchanges, make markets liquid and improve their operations.

By last year September, member States that included South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia had harmonised listing requirements.

Getting LuSE linked with JSE securities and Exchange was expected to create a central point for inflow of foreign portfolio investment and enhance LuSE’s exposure to investors.

Other expected benefits included improved liquidity across multiple markets and LuSE being able to be seen on the London Stock Exchange via JSE Securities and Exchange.

Zambia Daily Mail

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Former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said it is possible that the euro could replace the U.S. dollar as the reserve currency of choice.

According to an advance copy of an interview to be published in Thursday’s edition of the German magazine Stern, Greenspan said that the dollar is still slightly ahead in its use as a reserve currency, but added that “it doesn’t have all that much of an advantage” anymore.

The euro has been soaring against the U.S. currency in recent weeks, hitting all-time high of $1.3927 last week as the dollar has fallen on turbulent market conditions stemming from the ongoing U.S. subprime crisis. The Fed meets this week and is expected to lower its benchmark interest rate from the current 5.25 percent.

Greenspan said that at the end of 2006, some 25 percent of all currency reserves held by central banks were held in euros, compared to 66 percent for the U.S. dollar.

In terms of being used as a payment for cross-border transactions, the euro is trailing the dollar only slightly with 39 percent to 43 percent.

Greenspan said the European Central Bank has become “a serious factor in the global economy.”

He said the increased usage of the euro as a reserve currency has led to a lowering of interest rates in the euro zone, which has “without any doubt contributed to the current economic growth.”

© 2007 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

By press time of the article above, the US Federal Reserve had not yet announced its intentions to cut benchmark rates by half a percentage point.

As of the time of this posting the rate stood at 4.75% bringing new surge in the markets around the world with the Dow Jones gaining over 300 points in one day … thanks a trillion.

Brainwave R Mumba, Sr.

Market Reaction Around The World …


StarPhoenix

Interest rates decision spurs Australian stock market
Melbourne Herald Sun, Australia – 1 hour ago
THE US central bank’s decision to slash interest rates for the first time in four years spurred the Australian stock market to its biggest one-day rise in a
Fed Cuts Rate Half Point, and Stock Markets Soar New York Times
Fed lowers interest rate, and stock markets soar Kansas City Star
Fed’s Rate Cut Korea Times
TheStreet.com (subscription) – San Jose Mercury News
all 2,326 news articles »


Aljazeera.net

Asia markets soar after US rate cut
Aljazeera.net, Qatar – 8 hours ago
Asian stock markets have seen strong gains, following the first cut in US interest rates for four years. Shares on Wednesday were up by more than 3 per cent
Asia Stocks Jump After Wall Street Surge Washington Post
Most Asian markets lower; Tokyo stocks fall amid renewed concern International Herald Tribune
Financials weigh on Asian stock markets Financial Times
Euro2day – Euro2day
all 393 news articles »


StarPhoenix

Toronto stocks seen rising on commodities
Reuters Canada, Canada – 3 hours ago
TORONTO (Reuters) – Toronto’s main stock market index was seen opening higher on Wednesday as the US Federal Reserve’s bigger-than-expected interest rate
Stocks surge post-Fed Globe and Mail
Toronto stocks steady ahead of Fed decision Reuters Canada
Toronto stocks steady before Fed decision Reuters Canada
Globe and Mail – The Canadian Press
all 146 news articles »


Montreal Gazette

Clash Of The Emirates
Forbes, NY – 21 hours ago
could give Nasdaq an extra-thick financial shield against the ambitions of Dubai as well as more investment in international stock markets for Qatar.
Stockholm shares close lower, but OMX up on M&A speculation – UPDATE Forbes
all 48 news articles »


Hindu

Stock markets, rupee scale record highs
Earthtimes.org – 2 hours ago
The 30-stock Bombay Stock Exchange sensitive index (Sensex) rose 653.63 points or 4.2 percent to 16322.75 at close. All the components of the index were
Markets surge on Fed Reserves rate cut buzz Business Standard
Sensex breaches 16000 mark; up 653 points at close Zee News
Sensex recovers initial losses in late morning deals Hindu
Hindu – Economic Times
all 87 news articles »

Stock Market Update – Wed Sep 19 12:00:01 EDT 2007
Reuters – 11 minutes ago
5.5% gain in the stock. The feeling that the market is getting a bit overbought on a short-term basis could invite some afternoon selling interest.

Stock Market Update – Wed Sep 19 09:45:01 EDT 2007
Reuters – 2 hours ago
COM] The stock market has started the session on an upbeat note as the good vibes from yesterday’s trading continue to be felt.

Global stock markets rally after US interest-rate cut
Belfast Telegraph, United Kingdom – 8 hours ago
Stock markets across the world are continuing to rally amid signs that the global credit crunch is starting to ease. The rally follows a decision by the US

Stock Market Update – Wed Sep 19 10:35:01 EDT 2007
Reuters – 1 hour ago
COM] Buying interest has calmed after the excited start that followed yesterday’s rate-cut rally and the huge gains in foreign markets overnight.


Capital News 9

After Fed cut, debt market problems persist
CNNMoney.com – 1 hour ago
Global stock markets cheered Tuesday after the central bank cut the target for a key short-term interest rate. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial
AP Executive Morning Briefing The Associated Press
Debt Market Looks to Fed to Restore Confidence New York Times
Wall St. awaits the other Fed guy CNNMoney.com
CNN-IBN – USA Today
all 157 news articles »

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AEL – A South African Manufacturer Of Explosives Now Listed On The Lusaka Stock Exchange …

 

FILL IT UP An AEL Zambia re-pump emulsion truck filling up at the company’s plant outside Mufulira

Picture by: AEL

FILL IT UP An AEL Zambia re-pump emulsion truck filling up at the company’s plant outside Mufulira

By: Jonathan Faurie

Commercial explosives manufacturing and distribution company, African Explosives (AEL) has made a long-term investment in the Zambian Mining industry by listing on the Lusaka Stock Exchange says AEL international business director Stuart Wade.

The listing was confirmed in October 2006, Zambian investors and employees currently hold 20% of the company’s shares.

Wade reports that Zambia has traditionally been a large business hub for AEL. During the 1990s there was a slow down in mining activities but renewed interest in the region has made AEL’s Zambian expansion more possible and there are now significant investment plans.

“The company is in the process of upgrading, investing, reconfiguring, and aligning itself around the growth in the market place,” says Wade. This investment will expand the companies regional presence in Central Africa. The investment is configured to deliver products, blasting solutions and develop long term partnerships with customers.

Wade says that AEL Zambia is in a position in Africa to support both itself and the region and feels that the Zambian operation has the biggest growth potential. Copper, which is abundant in Zambia, is in huge demand at the moment contributing to the fact that the Zambian and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) operations are positioned to take part in the mining boom in the Central African region.

AEL has earmarked Zambia and the DRC as strategic growth areas for the company. Wade reports that the amount of money that is currently being invested in Zambia could be doubled when AEL DRC is fully established in the coming years. The company has achieved this growth through five board approved investment projects that are being executed in order to grow in Zambia.

Meanwhile, AEL has confirmed its involvement at Australian miner Equinox Minerals’ Lumwana mine in north western Zambia, reports Wade.

“This is by far one of the biggest greenfields projects that we have worked on to date,” says Wade.

The mine is 65 km west of the town of Solwezi. Equinox has acquired a large-scale mining license, which covers an area of around 1 355 km2, and includes two major copper deposits, Malundwe and Chimiwungo, as well as 27 exploration prospects.

The two copper deposits are 7 km apart, and will be mined sequentially by openpit mining methods. AEL reports that the mine design forecasts the extraction of 348-million tons of ore. Equinox has allocated land and amenities to mine supply partners to supply the mine, and plans to establish a town site to cater for up to 5 000 people.

AEL Zambia MD Wayne Du Chenne pointed out that the size of Lumwana, and the explosives needed to mine 20-million tons of ore a year, would require the erection of a bulk emulsion manufacturing plant on site to produce 3 000 t of bulk emulsion that will be required in the third year of the operation.

“Added to this, will be three to four mobile manufacturing units that will travel to the benches and deliver the emulsion down the hole. This infrastructure and capital equipment will require an investment of close to R30-million by AEL,” Du Chenne reveals.

Wade explains that the company has already been through the preparation phase of the project and is currently commencing with the building of magazines and civil work on the bulk emulsion plant. Once completed, AEL will have a bulk explosives manufacturing plant within the mine’s light industrial area Wade reports that once the site is fully functional it will conform to all the client’s requirements from the international fire protection standards to the environmental protection requirements.

Wade reports that the construction phase to bring the plant to full capacity will be completed by the first quarter of 2008.

Wade says the contract between AEL and Equinox will cover a period of ten years. While not disclosing the value of the Lumwana contract, he commits that the company’s Zambian operation faces even further expansion.

AEL is further positioning itself to start explosives supply to First Quantum Minerals, frontier mine in the DRC. The mine is still in the early stages of its development with pre-stripping and establishment of the mine is currently in progress.

He reports that the changing legislative environment, taxes, duties and logistics are the biggest challenges that the company faces in Africa.

Wade adds that the industry-wide lack of skilled labour is a concern for AEL. “AEL is currently manning itself up with competent people from each region who are able to work in the highly technical environment of explosives,” says Wade.

Wade feels that skills transfer is a key area that AEL has been focusing on as part of its long term strategy, “when we enter into new projects in Zambia we use the existing employees and structures to man up the projects. This provides excellent opportunities to grow local skills and competencies for future business growth,” he says

AEL also runs businesses in Ghana, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso.

“AEL has set up business hubs in Central, Eastern, and Western Africa to service the needs of clients outside of South Africa,” Wade concludes.

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By Stephanie McCrummen

Washington Post Foreign Service

Easy Steps For Zambians Abroad To Invest in LuSE

NAIROBI — One ordinary afternoon in a bright, marble-floored lobby downtown here, the following conversation took place between two women, a government worker and a self-employed soapmaker.

“I bought KenGen at 9.90 shillings,” said the government worker, Josephine Nduta, referring to her stake in the initial public offering of Kenya‘s power company last year. “I sold them at 28 — I made a lot of money!”

Traders conduct transactions at computers on the floor of the Nairobi Stock Exchange. Until 2005, the exchange traded stocks using a paper system.

Traders conduct transactions at computers on the floor of the Nairobi Stock Exchange. Until 2005, the exchange traded stocks using a paper system. (By Stephanie Mccrummen — The Washington Post)

 

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Ethiopian-backed troops push Islamic fighters from the capital, renewing hopes that a viable secular government can be established.

Wake Up Call
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“I also made money on that,” said Mary Kariuki, the soapmaker, recalling how she used the $1,000 to pay her children’s school fees. “I bought 3,300 shares.”

The two women carried on about liquidity and profit margins, and recalled with pride attending the first shareholder meeting of KenGen this year, an event so huge that it had to be held in the city’s largest soccer stadium. About 200,000 people from all corners of the country came like so many newly minted executives.

“I felt so good,” Kariuki recalled. “It was just normal, common people. People dressed well. What impressed me was the number of old women — they were coming in their traditional clothes. They were telling me, ‘Yes, we bought!’ ”

Stock market fever is sweeping Kenya and other sub-Saharan African countries such as Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria and Zambia, where stock exchanges, along with national economies, have shown steady gains in recent years as people who have traditionally invested in cows or land are learning to trust in the abstraction of corporate shares.

Perhaps nowhere has the idea caught fire more quickly than in Kenya. With investment banks conducting education campaigns in rural areas and daily newspapers thick with personal finance sections, the Nairobi Stock Exchange has transformed in recent years from a rich man’s club into a computerized, mass-appeal institution.

Since 2002, the number of investors has risen from 50,000 to more than 750,000, according to stock exchange executives, with much of that growth coming from rural areas. The exchange’s total value has jumped from $1 billion to $12 billion, amounts that are predicted to swell again following the biggest initial public offering in Kenyan history.

Cellphone giant Safaricom, expected to go public later this year, has attracted such foreign investment banks as Goldman Sachs to Nairobi for the first time, offering their services, and analysts expect that as many as 3 million individual investors in this country of nearly 36 million will participate.

“People are coming on a daily basis just to see what it’s about,” said Chris Mwebesa, 36, chief executive of the Nairobi exchange. “We’re seeing more rural folks coming to the market, working professionals, retirees, farmers, young people, even students.”

The boom has its skeptics, especially in a country with a history of entrenched corruption. And while people such as Nduta have made money on the whole — she is using some of it to electrify her house — she is also aware of the risk of losing big. Even so, the boom underscores a feature of life in Africa that often gets lost amid more prevalent images of a continent in perpetual collapse: dogged optimism.

A recent opinion poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that people surveyed in 10 African nations were on the whole optimistic about the future. In Kenya, 78 percent of those surveyed said life was getting better, even though a majority also reported that there were times in the past year they did not have enough money for food.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/25/AR2007082501291.html?sub=AR

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The Zambian Enterprise is not only the largest producer of copper in Africa; it also has a perfect track record to enable it to vie for a “World Class Credit” rating.

Usually referred to as “first credit” in economic terms, the rating would enable Zambia to issue international bonds and enter the elite class with incentives similar to those in developed nations.

Should this take place, Zambia whose economy currently accounts for only 1 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s $544 billion economy, would be the third country on the continent to issue such bonds.

“… if we went for a rating, we’d be able to issue a euro-kwacha bond for example … the country will probably seek its debut rating “shortly,” … there has never been a better time than this … with a buoyant economy and a good track record, I think it’s about the right time to subject ourselves to a rating,”… said the Manchester educated and one time professor of economics at the University of Zambia now Bank of Zambia Governor – Dr. Caleb Fundanga without being date specific.

The European Investment Bank, the finance arm of the European Union, in December 2006 sold 500 million pula of senior unsecured bonds, with settlement and payment in euros, the first-ever international issue in Botswana’s currency, according to Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services.

South Africa, the continent’s largest economy and Botswana, the nation with the highest rated debt in the continent, are the only southern African nations with foreign currency denominated bonds.

Zambia has a lot of support and may need to fully capitalize on that support if reality has to come. Out-going World Bank country manager was one of Zambia’s strongest advocates to the same.

“… Zambia is clearly one of the countries where the impact of debt relief has been massive and could be very clear,” Ohene Nyanin, the former World Bank’s country manager based in Lusaka, said in an interview. “It is a very big fiscal space that has been opened up.”’

The country’s inflation rate dropped to single digits for the first time in 30 years in April 2006 as the government moved to control spending. Zambia has also benefited from a fivefold rise in the price of copper, which accounts for 53% of the enterprise’s income.

International bonds are a certificate of debt issued by a government or corporation guaranteeing payment of the original investment plus interest by a specified future date and have the ability to increase cash inflows at an accelerated rate thereby increasing a country’s liquidity.

classy-daddy-3.gifTwo to three years ago, I introduced a bond phenomenon on Zambia Online and even suggested the issuance of bonds as a debt instrument necessary for capitalizing the New Zambia Airways as a private enterprise.

It was to be privately driven and ran; some nay sayers rose up to short the idea down but yet even today more experts are vying for a bond rating that would elevate the country’s standing as well as help grow our economy above 7% come next year.

It is highly feasible that some critics were new to the subject and saw no benefit to the Zambian Franchise at all … thanks a trillion.

Brainwave R Mumba, Sr.

CEO & President – Zambian Chronicle

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Mexico’s Carlos Slim makes his billions
the old-fashioned way: monopolies 

By DAVID LUHNOW
August 4, 2007; 

Mexico City

Carlos Slim is Mexico’s Mr. Monopoly.

It’s hard to spend a day in Mexico and not put money in his pocket. The 67-year-old tycoon controls more than 200 companies — he says he’s “lost count” — in telecommunications, cigarettes, construction, mining, bicycles, soft-drinks, airlines, hotels, railways, banking and printing. In all, his companies account for more than a third of the total value of Mexico’s leading stock market index, while his fortune represents 7% of the country’s annual economic output. (At his height, John D. Rockefeller’s wealth was equal to 2.5% of U.S. gross domestic product.)

As one Mexico City eatery jokes on its menu: “This restaurant is the only place in Mexico not owned by Carlos Slim.”

[Carlos Slim]

Mr. Slim’s fortune has grown faster than any in the world during the past two years, rising by more than $20 billion to about $60 billion currently. While the market value of his stake in publicly traded companies could decline at any time, at the moment he is probably wealthier than Bill Gates, whom Forbes magazine estimated at $56 billion last March. This would mark the first time that a person from the developing world held the top spot since Forbes started tracking the wealthy outside the U.S. in the 1990s.

“It’s not a competition,” Mr. Slim said in a recent interview, fiddling with an unlit Cuban cigar in a second-story office decorated with 19th century Mexican landscape paintings. A relatively modest man who wears ties from his own stores, the mogul says he doesn’t feel any richer just because he is wealthier on paper.

How did a Mexican son of Lebanese immigrants rise to such heights? By putting together monopolies, much like John D. Rockefeller did when he developed a stranglehold on refining oil in the industrial era. In the post-industrial world, Mr. Slim has a stranglehold on Mexico’s telephones. His Teléfonos de México SAB and its cellphone affiliate Telcel have 92% of all fixed-lines and 73% of all cellphones. As Mr. Rockefeller did before him, Mr. Slim has accumulated so much power that he is considered untouchable in his native land, a force as great as the state itself.

The portly Mr. Slim is a study in contradiction. He says he likes competition in business, but blocks it at every turn. He loves talking about technology, but doesn’t use a computer and prefers pen and paper. He hosts everyone from Bill Clinton to author Gabriel García Márquez at his Mexico City mansion, but is provincial in many ways, doesn’t travel widely, and proudly says he owns no homes outside of Mexico. In a country of soccer fans, he likes baseball. He roots for the sport’s richest team, the New York Yankees.

INTERVIEW EXCERPTS
 carlos-slim.jpg

“This isn’t a competition. Being a businessman isn’t about that kind of competition. It’s a competition for the marketplace.”

— Carlos Slim, in a discussion with The Wall Street Journal. Read the edited excerpts.

Admirers say the hard-charging Mr. Slim, an insomniac who stays up late reading history and has a fondness for reading about Ghengis Khan and his deceptive military strategies, embodies Mexico’s potential to become a Latin tiger. His thrift in both his businesses and personal life is a model of restraint in a region where flamboyant Latin American business tycoons build lavish corporate headquarters and fly to Africa on hunting jaunts.

To critics, however, Mr. Slim’s rise says a lot about Mexico’s deepest problems, including the gap between rich and poor. The latest U.N. rankings place Mexico at 103 out of 126 nations measured in terms of equality. During the past two years, Mr. Slim has made about $27 million a day, while a fifth of the country gets by on less than $2 a day.

“It’s like the U.S. and the robber barons in the 1890s. Only Slim is Rockefeller, Carnegie, and J.P. Morgan all rolled up into one person,” says David Martínez, a Mexican investor who lives in Manhattan.

Monopolies have long been a feature of Mexico’s economy. But in the past, politicians acted as a brake on big business to ensure that the business class didn’t threaten their power. But political control faded in the 1990s with the privatization of much of the economy and the slow death of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which held power for 71 years until 2000.

“It is surprising how big companies have captured the Mexican state. This is a risk to our democracy, and is suffocating our economy,” says Eduardo Perez Motta, the country’s antitrust chief.

As the face of the new elite, Mr. Slim presents an acute challenge for the country’s young president, Felipe Calderón. He must decide whether to try and rein in Mr. Slim despite the mogul’s standing as the country’s largest private employer and taxpayer. Congress routinely kills legislation that threatens his interests, and his firms account for a chunk of the nation’s advertising revenue, making the media reluctant to criticize him.

[World's Richest Man]

During the past few months, Mr. Calderón has looked to cut a backdoor deal with Mr. Slim. In a series of face-to face meetings — the details of which have surfaced for the first time — the president has tried to convince Mr. Slim to accept greater competition, according to people familiar with the talks. The government holds an important card: Mr. Slim can’t offer video on his network — a big potential market — without government approval.

But even some within Mr. Calderón’s camp privately say the closed-door talks play into Mr. Slim’s hands by letting him circumvent the country’s regulators, underscoring the weakness of Mexico’s democratic institutions. Unless Mr. Calderón extracts big concessions from the mogul, they say, he may become too powerful to control. For his part, Mr. Slim says that his companies are “in constant contact” with regulators, but played down the notion of a secret negotiation.

A talkative man who is generally avuncular but who can easily lose his temper, Mr. Slim rejects the monopolist label. “I like competition. We need more competition,” he says, sipping a Diet Coke. He stressed that many of his companies operate in competitive markets, and pointed out that Mexico accounts for only a third of sales at his cellphone company América Móvil SAB, which has clients from San Francisco to Sao Paolo.

Mr. Slim’s strategy has been consistent over his long career: Buy companies on the cheap, whip them into shape, and ruthlessly drive competitors out of business. After Mr. Slim got control of Telmex in 1990, he quickly cornered the market for copper cables used by Telmex for telephone wires. He bought one of the two main suppliers and made sure Telmex didn’t buy any cable from the other big supplier, eventually prompting the owners to sell the company to him.

His control of Mexico’s telephone system has slowed the nation’s development. While telephones have long been standard in any American home, only about 20% of Mexican homes have them. Only 4% of Mexicans have broadband access. Mexican consumers and businesses also pay above-average prices for telephone calls, according to the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development.

Mr. Slim agrees that many industries in Mexico are dominated by big companies. But he sees no harm as long as they offer good service and prices. “If a beer in Mexico costs 1 peso and in the U.S. it costs 2 pesos, then I don’t see the problem,” he says.

Despite countless measures over the years that show his companies charge high prices, Mr. Slim steadfastly rejects that notion. During an interview, he orders an aide to fetch his own telephone bills. “See? We charge $14 per month for basic phone rental, cheaper than the U.S.,” he says, pulling up a seat next to the reporter. That may be so, but additional fees in Mexico make most phone bills more expensive than in the U.S. Mr. Slim’s total phone bill at his own house was a whopping $470 last month. “I have a lot of maids and my sons make calls,” he says.

Mr. Slim says his success comes from spotting opportunity early, something he learned in part from reading futurist writer Alvin Toffler, who wrote the best-seller “Future Shock” in the 1970s, and who sends the mogul manuscripts to review. Pulling a dog-eared copy of Mr. Toffler’s last book, “Revolutionary Wealth,” Mr. Slim leafs through it and shows off his comments in the margins. “Some of his numbers were out of date,” he mutters.

Mr. Toffler says he first met Mr. Slim on a trip to Mexico in 1993. Mr. Slim approached him after a speech, surrounded by his family and carrying one of Mr. Toffler’s books, heavily underlined. The two have been friends ever since. “If you didn’t know he was the richest guy in the world, you’d just think he was a likeable and intelligent guy,” says Mr. Toffler.

The fifth of six children, Mr. Slim was born wealthy. His father, Julian Slim, made his fortune on a general store in downtown Mexico City called “The Orient Star.” His father died when Mr. Slim was only 13.

THE FOUR D’S

Companies that dominate their industries often resort to the four D’s to defend their turf when facing competition for the first time.

Deny — When Mexico’s long-distance market opened to competition in 1997, Telmex at first denied access to its network, arguing that rivals didn’t have the legal authorization to operate in the country, say rivals. In recent years, Telmex has tried to block Internet calling service Skype’s entry into Mexico, arguing it needs a government concession to enter the market. Telmex says it follows legal procedure.  

Delay — Telmex dragged its feet on allowing access to its network, often not returning calls from executives of rival companies or not showing up at meetings, rivals say. When Mexico’s telephone regulator, Cofetel, tried to regulate Telmex in the following years, the company took it to court nearly every single time, tying up the regulator’s rulings for years.

Deteriorate — Rivals complain that Telmex hurt competitors’ service. One small rival, MCM Telecom, says Telmex would route all of its calls through one particular station to overload the calls and create busy signals. Telmex says any such move was inadvertent.

Dump — Mr. Slim’s companies can put the squeeze on rivals. Since his Mexican cellphone company, Telcel, has more than 70% of the market, it collects high interconnection fees for calls between networks roughly seven in every 10 times. Rivals, however, have to pay the fee most of the time, making it hard for them to undercut Telcel’s prices and gain market share.

Early on, Mr. Slim showed an aptitude for numbers that would help his career. He taught algebra at Mexico’s largest public university while finishing his thesis, titled “Applications of Linear Theory in Civil Engineering.” His love of numbers also drew him to baseball, a lifelong hobby. “In baseball…numbers talk,” he once wrote. Even today, he enjoys discussing baseball, telling a reporter that slugger Barry Bonds should be remembered more for his walk ratio than his home runs.

After college, Mr. Slim and some friends became stockbrokers in the country’s fledgling market. Trading by day and playing dominoes by night, the clique became known as “Los Casabolseros,” or “The Stock Market Boys.” Despite the success, friends say Mr. Slim, less of a party boy and more private than the rest, wanted to run companies rather than trade. “He never liked money as much as the rest of us. He just wanted to be a good businessman,” says Enrique Trigueros, one of the casabolseros.

Mr. Slim soon got his chance. After turning around a soft-drink company and a printing firm in the late 1960s and mid 1970s, he made his first big move in 1981, buying a big stake in Mexico’s second-biggest tobacco company, Cigatam, maker of Marlboro cigarettes in Mexico. The company generated the cash Mr. Slim needed to go on a buying spree.

A good time to buy came in 1982, a year that would shape Mr. Slim’s destiny. That year, the collapsing price of oil threw Mexico into a tailspin. When departing president José López Portillo nationalized Mexico’s banks, the traditional business elite feared the country was becoming socialist, and ran for the exits. Companies were selling for as little as 5% of their book value. Mr. Slim picked up dozens of leading firms for bargain-basement prices, a move that paid off when the economy recovered in the following years. He bought Mexico’s largest insurer, Seguros de México, for $44 million. Today, the company is worth at least $2.5 billion.

“Countries don’t go broke,” an unflappable Mr. Slim told friends at the time. Indeed, Mr. Slim always says his inspiration to invest during the downturn came from his father, who bought out his partner in their general store during the worst days of the 1910-1917 Mexican revolution — a bet that made his father a fortune when the fighting ended.

Mr. Slim still spots good values. From 2002 to 2004, he amassed a 13% stake in bankrupt carrier MCI, later selling it to Verizon Communications Corp. for $1.3 billion. “He has never overpaid for anything,” says Hector Aguilar Camín, a historian and friend. While the pair were on holiday in Venice, Mr. Slim once haggled with a store owner for several hours to get a $10 discount on a tie.

Despite his abilities, many here believe his biggest break was the rise to power in 1988 of Carlos Salinas, a Harvard-educated technocrat bent on modernizing the country. The two men had struck up a friendship in the mid-1980s, and Mr. Salinas spoke of Mr. Slim as the country’s brightest young businessman. Local wags dubbed the pair “Carlos and Charlies,” after a popular local restaurant chain.

Under Mr. Salinas, hundreds of state companies were sold, including Telmex in 1990. Mr. Slim, together with Southwestern Bell and France Telecom, won the bid over one of his closest friends, Roberto Hernandez, who got together with GTE Corp. Mr. Hernandez later suggested the auction was rigged, something both Mr. Slim and Mr. Salinas have long denied. Regardless of whether there was favoritism in the sale of Telmex, the privatization process created a new class of super-rich in Mexico. In 1991, the country had two billionaires on the Forbes list. By 1994, at the end of Mr. Salinas’s six-year term, there were 24. The richest of them all was Mr. Slim.

In retrospect, it is easy to see why Messrs. Slim and Hernandez considered Telmex a prize worth losing their friendship. Although countries like Brazil and the U.S. broke up state monopolies into a number of competing firms, Mexico sold its monopoly intact, barring competition during the first six years. And while countries like the U.S. initially barred local “baby bell” carriers from offering long-distance and cellular service in their same area, Telmex got to do all three at once, and across the entire country. Indeed, it won the only nationwide cellular-telephone concession, while rivals had to settle for concessions that were limited to certain regions. When competition was allowed in long distance, foreign carriers were limited to a minority stake in the fixed-line business. Mexico didn’t even bother to set up a telephone regulator until three years after the sale.

Dan Crawford was one of those who took on Mr. Slim and lost. In 1995, the California native became chief operating officer of Avantel, a long-distance company partly owned by MCI and the bank of Mr. Hernandez, Mr. Slim’s erstwhile friend. Avantel spent around $1 billion building a new network, but it soon ran into trouble trying to connect to Telmex’s network — something it needed to complete calls to and from Telmex clients. Telmex executives simply ignored phone calls or failed to turn up for meetings, Mr. Crawford recalls.

When Telmex did connect the calls nearly a year later, the price was so high that Avantel paid 70 cents of every dollar it made to Mr. Slim’s company, according to Mr. Crawford. When Avantel took Telmex to court for monopolistic practices, Telmex responded by asking a judge to issue an arrest warrant for Avantel’s top lawyer in Mexico, Luis Mancera, on trumped up charges, Mr. Crawford says. Mr. Slim confirms the story, but says a Telmex lawyer acted rashly, and that the judicial proceeding was dropped. Mr. Mancera declined to comment.

“Slim is very aggressive,” says Mr. Crawford, who recently retired from MCI. Avantel eventually defaulted on its debts in 2001, much of which were scooped up by Mr. Slim and later sold for a profit. Avantel was sold recently to another Mexican firm for $485 million — a fraction of what it invested in Mexico.

For his part, Mr. Slim says Avantel and others mistakenly focused on the long-distance market, which was in decline, rather than wireless, which was growing.

It hasn’t been much easier taking on Mr. Slim in the wireless market either. In 2004, Spain’s Telefónica SA began selling handsets at a loss here to build market share. But it soon realized that tens of thousands of phones were purchased but never used. According to a case currently at Mexico’s antitrust agency, Telefónica says that Telcel distributors bought the phones to keep them off the market, in some cases swapping the phone’s existing chip with their own and reselling the handset.

When asked about this practice, Mr. Slim says “It could be. That happens to all of us. If you sell something for $50 or $20 that costs $100, someone’s going to buy it.” His spokesman and son-in-law, Arturo Elías, says the distributors acted without Telcel’s knowledge.

Attempts to regulate Mr. Slim’s companies have largely failed over the years. Mexico’s telephone regulator, Cofetel, was so weak in the 1990s that Telmex’s rivals dubbed it “Cofetelmex.” When the regulator did try to act, Mr. Slim’s lawyers blocked it in the country’s Byzantine courts.

The Telmex chief also had friends in high places. Vicente Fox, Mexico’s first opposition president when he won in 2000, tapped a former Telmex employee, Pedro Cerisola, to be his minister of communications and transport. During his tenure, Mr. Cerisola rarely moved against Telmex, say executives from rival telephone companies. Mr. Cerisola declined to comment.

Using money from his telephone empire, Mr. Slim has expanded into Latin American markets as well as new industries in Mexico. His cellphone company América Móvil has 124 million customers and operates in more than a dozen Latin American nations. In Mexico, he has focused on industries that depend on government contracts. His new construction company, Ideal SAB, is currently bidding to run some of Mexico’s biggest highways. His new oil-services company recently built the country’s biggest oil platform.

Some of Mexico’s business leaders say in private that they feel Mr. Slim has grown too greedy. The death of his wife, Soumaya, from kidney disease in 1999 left him without an anchor, says Mr. Trigueros, Mr. Slim’s friend from his stockbroker days. “She was a special woman, the kind who keeps a guy in line. Nowadays, he only has business to think about,” he says.

Mr. Slim’s empire is so vast here now that doing business without him can be difficult. Two years ago, Hutchison Port Holdings and U.S. railroad Union Pacific teamed up to bid on a $6 billion port and railway in Baja California to compete with Long Beach port. But Mr. Slim felt the project had been arranged behind closed doors and was against the idea of the country’s biggest project going to foreigners. He made his feelings known to the Baja California governor and the project was stalled. Mr. Slim has since worked to put together a rival consortium, which includes Mexican rail company Grupo Mexico and U.S. railroad Burlington-Northern. He says his potential bid is a better option for the country because the railroad will run along Mexico’s north and help spur development. Union Pacific and Hutchison both declined to comment.

Mr. Slim has recently given more money to philanthropy, but he has often said his most important legacy is his family. In 2000, a few years after heart surgery, he put his sons and sons-in-law in charge of his businesses. He also started a group called “Fathers and Sons” that invites Latin American billionaires and their heirs for annual meetings, where they sip fine wines and attend seminars like “How to Run a Family Business.”

There is no obvious successor to the patriarch’s empire. That gives some Mexican officials hope that one day the state can regulate his companies. Says one high-ranking official: “When Slim dies, we can finally regulate his kids.”

Write to David Luhnow at david.luhnow@wsj.com

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