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AT&T to buy Nextel Mexico’s wireless assets for $1.9 billion

AT&T Inc., the second-largest U.S. mobile- phone carrier, agreed to buy NII Holdings Inc.’s Mexican wireless assets for $1.875 billion in its third deal to expand south of the U.S. border.

The deal includes companies that operate under the name Nextel Mexico, spectrum licenses, network assets, retail stores and about 3 million customers, AT&T said. The purchase price doesn’t include an unspecified amount of debt from NII, which filed for bankruptcy in September.

Nextel Mexico’s high-paying monthly subscribers will help AT&T accelerate a plan to offer its first cross-border service in the U.S. and Mexico. AT&T’s pending takeover of DirecTV, which has operations in Mexico, marked the company’s first push outside the U.S. in more than a decade as growth slows at home.

The company has since added to that expansion with the $2.5 billion acquisition of Grupo Iusacell SA in Mexico, which closed earlier this month.

The deal strengthens AT&T’s efforts in Mexico by adding Nextel’s “more highly-valued postpaid customers and some additional infrastructure,” said BTIG analyst Walt Piecyk. “Nextel’s spectrum bolsters what Iusacell has to offer: wireless data services, the key element of AT&T’s growth strategy.” AT&T said it plans to combine Nextel Mexico with Iusacell, which will help improve service for people living outside major metropolitan areas. The deal is expected to close in the middle of this year, AT&T and NII said.