UPDATE 1-Argentina orders Clarin’s Fibertel to quit market

* Argentina says operating license had expired

* Gov’t, Grupo Clarin in political dispute for two years
(Adds Clarin comment, analyst)

BUENOS AIRES, Aug 19 (BestGrowthStock) – Argentina’s government
ordered a leading Internet provider to halt operations on
Thursday, the latest twist in a long-running dispute with the
country’s giant media conglomerate Grupo Clarin (CLA.BA: ).

President Cristina Fernandez has been at odds with the
media group since its news outlets criticized her handling of a
revolt by farmers in 2008, breaking ranks with the center-left
leader.

Fernandez accuses daily newspaper Clarin of lying in an
effort to destabilize her administration, while Grupo Clarin
says it is being unfairly targeted in a government drive to
stifle media criticism.

Planning Minister Julio De Vido said Clarin-controlled
Internet provider Fibertel would have to cease operations
because its operating license had already expired and was
therefore “being used illegally.”

“They can’t continue any longer,” De Vido told a televised
news conference. “They are no longer authorized to provide
services.”

He said Fibertel’s approximately 1 million customers would
have 90 days to switch companies.

Officials at Grupo Clarin were not immediately available to
comment, but a letter published on the Clarin newspaper website
(www.clarin.com) said the decision marked the latest government
“onslaught” against the company.

“The government’s new attack against Clarin affects
hundreds of thousands of Internet users across the country,”
the statement said.

The Communications Secretariat resolution cited by De Vido
on Thursday accuses Fibertel of breaching licensing regulations
following its merger with Cablevision, another company owned by
Grupo Clarin.

Several days ago, the secretariat ordered Cablevision not
to sign up new customers or alter its services — a move the
company described as “clearly abusive and part of the
government’s plan of administrative harassment.”

Analyst Guido Bizzozero, from the Allaria Ledesma brokerage
in Buenos Aires, said Clarin would likely appeal the Fibertel
ruling as it has done with other similar measures.

“This is just a measure to annoy Clarin, but every obstacle
hurts. Clarin’s image will suffer, but in principle, the group
won’t be hurt much economically,” he said.

The news sent Clarin shares tumbling 8 percent in afternoon
trade in Buenos Aires to 12 pesos per share.
(Reporting by Guido Nejamkis, Eduardo Garcia and Alexandra
Ulmer; Writing by Helen Popper; Editing by Gerald E.
McCormick)

UPDATE 1-Argentina orders Clarin’s Fibertel to quit market