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Oi makes Brazil’s largest ever bankruptcy filing

Brazil mobile money

Latin America’s biggest telecoms company – Brazil’s Oi – has filed for what is the country’s largest ever bankruptcy.

Oi has over $19 billion of debts and Brazil has been struggling both economically and politically for a while. The company also made separate announcement detailing its efforts to renegotiate that debt with an ad hoc collection of its creditors.

The announcement of the filing was every bit as convoluted and legalese as you would expect of such a thing. The Brazilian equivalent of bankruptcy is called ‘judicial reorganization’ and the request was filed yesterday.

“As previously announced, the Oi Companies, together with their financial and legal advisors, are conducting efforts and studies to optimize their liquidity and indebtedness profile,” said the announcement. “The Company, together with its legal and financial advisors, also negotiated with its creditors and with Moelis & Company, a financial advisor to a group of bond holders, seeking mutual agreement as to the consensual restructuring of the Oi Companies’ indebtedness and to strengthen their capital structure.

“However, considering the challenges of the Oi Companies’ economic and financial situation in connection with the maturity schedule of their financial debts, the threats to the assets of the Oi Companies represented by imminent attachments or freezings in judicial lawsuits and the urgent need to adopt measures that protect the Oi Companies, the Company decided that filing for judicial reorganization would be the most appropriate course of action at this time.”

At least part of Oi’s debt problems seem to stem from its previous involvement with Portugal Telecom, which it merged with in 2014 in spite of some bizarre debt juggling by the latter. Oi eventually agreed to take on a bunch more debt in exchange for a bigger piece of the merged operation, effectively making it more of an acquisition.

Less than six months later Oi sold the Portuguese assets of the combined operation to Altice for around $8 billion, but seems to have kept much of its liabilities. Oi has looked like an accident waiting to happen for some time and it seems inevitable that the embattled Brazilian state will have to step in to keep the broadband running.


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