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Apax Said to Prepare US$8.8b Bid for Oi Portugal Assets

5 November 2014

(Bloomberg) Apax Partners LLP is planning to offer about EU€7b (US$8.8b) for Oi’s assets in Portugal in partnership with CVC Capital Partners Ltd. and Bain Capital Partners LLC, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

The private-equity fund is looking at the company’s financial numbers in detail with the aim to match a proposal made by billionaire Patrick Drahi on Nov. 2, the person said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private. The funds are betting the Portuguese government would be in favor of them, the person said. The firms are considering raising debt to help finance the transaction, the person said.

Oi, Brazil’s largest landline carrier, will wait to get more offers for its Portuguese assets before deciding what to do, three other people said.

Spokesmen for London-based Apax and CVC Capital and Boston-based Bain Capital declined to comment.

Altice SA (ATC), Drahi’s Luxembourg-based cable holding company, would finance the 7 billion-euro bid with cash and debt, it said on Nov. 2. The price includes two sets of 400 million-euro payments that will depend on future revenue and cash flow.

Altice intends to argue that it will make investments and preserve jobs in Portugal — two issues local authorities are likely to be sensitive to — to sway Oi’s opinion in its favor, another person familiar with the matter said. Portugal Telecom’s most recent annual report showed the company had about 7,500 telecommunications employees in the country.

On the other hand, private equities may have an advantage over Altice because any regulatory process “is likely to be signficantly faster,” according to Pedro Oliveira, an analyst at Banco BPI SA. Altice already owns cable assets Cabovisao and Oni in the country, so any transaction to take on more businesses would attract antitrust scrutiny.

Altice’s offer doesn’t include the 897 million euros in short-term debt defaulted by Espirito Santo’s Rioforte Investments SA. The Apax proposal also wouldn’t include Rioforte debt, the person said.

In a Nov. 3 filing, Oi said it has sent Altice’s proposal to its board for analysis. The company aims to complete a transaction by the end of this year, people familiar with the matter said last week.

Portugal Telecom SGPS SA, the company that no longer controls the operating businesses and whose main asset is a minority stake in the enlarged Oi, rose 3.5 percent to 1.24 euros at 12:16 p.m. in Lisbon. Altice dropped 1.1 percent to 50.05 euros in Amsterdam.

Rio de Janeiro-based Oi is seeking at least 7 billion euros for the assets, people familiar with the matter said last week.

Proceeds from the sale would help Oi pare its $19 billion debt and take part in consolidating Latin America’s biggest telecommunications market. A successful bid by Altice or Apax would also unwind Portugal Telecom SGPS and Oi’s yearlong merger that was marred by defaulted debt at a unit of Grupo Espirito Santo and a CEO change.

Portugal Telecom SGPS has veto rights over a sale of the Portuguese assets, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Oi and Portugal Telecom agreed a year ago on the combination to create a carrier with 100 million customers to compete against Telefonica SA (TEF) and Carlos Slim’s America Movil SAB. In July, the companies renegotiated the transaction to give Portugal Telecom a smaller stake in the combined entity after it emerged that the Lisbon-based partner was holding debt defaulted by Rioforte.