(Updates with CEO comments, details of plan and lawsuits)
By Rodrigo Viga Gaier and Leonardo Goy
RIO DE JANEIRO/BRASILIA, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Brazilian telecoms company Oi SA is up for sale after it emerged from Latin America’s largest-ever bankruptcy protection process, Chief Executive Eurico Teles said on Wednesday.
Teles said the company was ready to receive international investors and had received an offer of support from China Development Bank.
Many international investors, such as China Telecom Corp Ltd and China Mobile Ltd, offered a capital injection as the company struggled for a year and a half to restructure some 65.4 billion reais ($20 billion) in debt.
While rivals from Telefonica Brasil SA to America Movil SAB have cried foul at the prospect of competing with a Chinese state firm, fresh capital is seen as crucial to making Brazil’s largest fixed-line carrier competitive.
“The company is ready for anyone that wants to buy it,” Teles said in Rio de Janeiro.
“At the moment, there are no negotiations in progress. We received some international investors without reaching a conclusion. The China Development Bank is willing to provide resources to the company. We already received China Telecom, but there’s been no firm proposal.”
At around 3 a.m. local time, after a 15-hour meeting, creditors in Oi agreed to a final restructuring plan for the company, that will inject some 4 billion reais of new capital and put its current bondholders in the driver’s seat.
Under the plan, creditors such as distressed asset specialists Aurelius Capital Management and Goldentree Asset Management can swap debt for up to 75 percent of the carrier’s stock.
According to court documents, new capital will be used to expand high-speed broadband and fourth-generation cell networks, among other technologies in which Oi has fallen behind recently.
While the plan has broad support among creditors, Brazilian telecoms regulator Anatel, which holds 14 billion reais in Oi debt through regulatory fines, voted against the deal, and will challenge the debt restructuring plan in court. It will not, however, use its regulatory power to block new ownership, the head of the agency, Juarez Quadros, said on Wednesday.
Also hanging over the company are a slew of lawsuits and formal complaints by investment fund Societe Mondiale, a shareholder that controlled Oi’s board through alliances.
Representatives of Societe Mondiale, owned by distressed debt tycoon Nelson Tanure, have peppered courts with motions in recent days, alleging illegal decisions by the bankruptcy judge overseeing the process.
$1 = 3.29 reais Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier in Rio de Janeiro and Leonardo Goy in Brasilia; Writing and additional reporting by Gram Slattery in Sao Paulo; Editing by Brad Haynes and Susan Thomas