Oi (OIBR +9.6%) says it has hired i-bank BTG Pactual to help it explore options for buying Telecom Italia's (TI +4.3%) TIM Participacoes (TSU +6.2%) Brazilian mobile/wireline unit. Shares of all 3 companies are rallying, as are those of Portugal Telecom (PT +6%) and Telefonica's Brazilian unit (VIV +2.4%).
Given Oi's debt load (almost $20B) and potential antitrust concerns, many think a bid for TIM (would lower the number of Brazilian mobile carriers to 3) can only work if Oi partners with other carriers to acquire and break up TIM. America Movil (AMX +0.7%), which owns rival carrier Claro, is viewed as a potential partner.
Oi's disclosure comes as a bidding war between TI and Telefonica (TEF +0.8%) for Vivendi-owned (OTCPK:VIVHY) Brazilian wireline carrier GVT heats up. Reuters reports TI will make a €7B ($9.2B) bid for GVT that would give Vivendi a 15%-20% stake in TI; the WSJ reports Telefonica's board is meeting today to consider upping its €6.7B ($8.8B) GVT bid.