SAO PAULO America Movil SAB (AMXL.MX) is interested in acquiring some or all of the operations run by struggling Brazilian rival Oi SA (OIBR3.SA), the chief executive of the Mexican telecom giant said in a newspaper interview published on Wednesday.
Brazilian paper Valor Economico reported that Daniel Hajj, CEO of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim's telecom empire, said he was eyeing an acquisition of Oi operations whether or not the company is split up in the midst of an in-court restructuring.
"We are open to looking at anything," Hajj said in the Valor report. "I am very interested in participating in the (market)consolidation in Brazil, but I don't know how it will happen."
Oi's preferred shares (OIBR4.SA) rose 8 percent in early trading, while America Movil advanced 1 percent.
Hajj's remarks renewed speculation about merger activity in Brazil's telecommunications market, where four major rivals have struggled to maintain profits in a deep recession while keeping up costly investments in new broadband technology.
Telecom Italia SpA (TLIT.MI) engaged Oi in merger talks early this year, but new management in Italy has shown less interest in dealmaking. America Movil and Spain's Telefonica SA (TEF.MC) never ruled out a deal with Oi, but their scale in Brazil mean tough antitrust hurdles for an outright takeover.
A spokeswoman for America Movil confirmed Hajj's comments, adding that "when we know what is up for sale and what are the conditions, we will evaluate the case." Oi declined to comment.
Any dealmaking is expected to hinge on cooperation from the government, Oi's second-biggest creditor, which is reviewing onerous fixed-line concessions and keeping a close eye on licensing and antitrust issues that are key to consolidation.
"We believe Oi is too large for any of the existing players to acquire it entirely, due to market concentration," Credit Suisse analysts told clients in a note, adding that a piecemeal sale of Oi operations was better for America Movil than a wholesale takeover.
The analysts highlighted potential asset sales that Oi outlined in its court recovery plan, including data centers, fiber networks and mobile operations, but added that no deals are likely until Oi concludes its six-month in-court reorganization and Congress passes a new telecom law expected in the first half of next year.
Oi filed in June for protection from creditors in a 65.4 billion reais ($20 billion) bankruptcy case, the country's biggest-ever.
(Reporting by Brad Haynes; Additional reporting by Christine Murray in Mexico City and Bruno Federowski in Sao Paulo; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)