San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Caribbean Telecom Giant Wants in on Tico Market

The head of the Caribbean telecom giant Digicel told the daily La República it is interested in entering the Costa Rican telecom market if the market is opened to private competition.

The company, which operates in 22 countries, has lately set its sights on Central America, where it has entered the Salvadoran and Guatemalan markets, and put its foot in the door in Panama and Nicaragua. The company is the fastest-growing mobile telecom operator in the Caribbean, already claiming 62% of that market after just six years. It has invested some $1.5 billion in that region, and employs more than 3,000 workers, according to Digicel’s Web site.

The Spanish company Telefónica and the Mexican giant Telmex, owned by magnate Carlos Slim (the richest man in Latin America and third richest in the world, according to Forbes), have already registered their brands with Costa Rica’s National Registry in anticipation of a possible market opening (TT, Feb. 3, 2006)

Under the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA), Costa Rica is required to open its state-run telecom monopoly to private competition.

Digicel group is based in Bermuda but Irish magnate Denis O’Brien, one of the richest men in Ireland, is the company’s majority shareholder. In September 2006, O’Brien took up an address in Malta, a Mediterranean island that charges no tax on assets or income brought into the jurisdiction. The Irish Times reported that O’Brien made the move as Digicel planned to float his company on the New York Stock Exchange.


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