China Mobile is reportedly in talks with Brazil’s telecom regulator to purchase Brazilian telecom provider Oi SA’s mobile phone division. According to Exame magazine, China’s largest telecom company is interested in taking over the Brazilin telecom company, which is currently under bankruptcy protection.
China Mobile wouldn’t be responsible for paying overdue fines that Oi owes if it were to purchase the struggling telco, according to Exame, referring to China Mobile’s discussions with Anatel, Brazil’s agency of telecommunications. The agency reportedly confirmed on Sept. 11 that the talks took place.
If China Mobile were to purchase Oi, it would be the company’s first international buyout and could fire up tensions amid a crackdown by regulators on financing for outbound acquisitions. The Brazilian telecom company has around $19 billion in debts. The company filed Brazil’s largest bankruptcy protection request in June 2016.
Once regarded as one of Brazil’s “national champions”, Oi’s financial problems are mostly attributed to debt accrued from the heavy CAPEX required to meet mandatory goals for the expansion of its fixed-line network, and from mergers and acquisitions, said a report by the Financial Times.
Anatel is Oi's largest individual creditor, with $3.5 billion in fines accumulated during Oi's 20 years of operations. The regulatory agency set a deadline for Oi to present a competent recovery plan by August 23, but it failed to do so, according to Exame. Therefore, the company is facing intensifying pressure to come up with a solution to its financial woes.
Oi’s CEO, Marco Schroeder, said in August that the company needs a capital boost soon in order to survive. The company is said to have lost around 6 million clients in Brazil in the first year under bankruptcy protection. Brazil’s economy is facing a massive amount of pressure due to its recession, with many companies facing heavy debt.