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Huawei, China Mobile May Tie Up to Bid for Brazil’s Oi, O Globo Says

Mario Sergio Lima

(Bloomberg) -- Huawei Technologies Co. and China Mobile Ltd. are exploring a partnership to bid for Brazilian phone company Oi SA, O Globo Newspaper reported, without citing a source.

Huawei, the phone maker caught in disputes between China and the U.S., is seeking the bid as an opportunity to enter the Brazilian market and expand its reach for 5G technology, the newspaper said. The plan also comes as the Brazilian government wants a solution for the indebted company, O Globo added.

Oi declined to comment on the report, while officials at Huawei and China Mobile couldn’t be reached after regular office hours.

Speculation of the bid comes as Brazil’s Senate approved a bill to update the country’s obsolete framework for telecommunications, paving the way for Oi to implement a plan to sell up to $2 billion in non-core assets. Earlier this week, Suno Notícias reported that China Mobile has filed a request to operate in Brazil and eventually acquire Oi. The country’s telecom regulatory agency Anatel said Sept. 17 it didn’t have any official information regarding the request.

The Senate’s approval also sparked speculation of talks between the Brazilian carrier and other companies. In the past week, Telecom Italia SpA and Telefonica Brasil SA both denied reports in the Brazilian media that they’re in talks with Oi.

The Rio de Janeiro-based telecom operator wants to sell assets including its African unit Unitel SA and focus on the last mile of its fiber-optic network, Brazil’s largest, to get revenue growing again as it enters the last phase of a two-year judicial recovery plan.

Oi posted a loss of 1.56 billion reais ($376 million) last month and said it burned about 2 billion reais of cash in the second quarter, even as investors are still recovering from the company’s $19 billion debt restructuring in December 2017. The results prompted the phone giant’s largest shareholder to seek a replacement for a new chief executive officer.

(Updates with regulator’s comment on earlier report on China Mobile in fourth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Mario Sergio Lima in Brasilia Newsroom at mlima11@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Juan Pablo Spinetto at jspinetto@bloomberg.net, Ian Fisher

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