UPDATE 1-Brazil court agrees to protect phone company Oi from creditors
(Adds Oi chief executive comment)
RIO DE JANEIRO, June 29 (Reuters) - A Brazilian court on Wednesday accepted Oi SA's bankruptcy protection petition, allowing the country's largest phone company to move ahead with plans to reorganize operations and restructure 65.4 billion reais ($20.2 billion) of debt.
The decision was made by judge Fernando Viana of the 7th Commercial Branch of Rio de Janeiro's Justice Tribunal who will supervise the reorganization on behalf of Oi and creditors, the court said in a statement.
Viana said he accepted the petition because of the company's importance to the Brazilian economy, to ensure an organized restructuring of Oi's debts and to protect its suppliers, 70 million clients, 140,000 employees and taxes Oi pays to the Brazilian government, the statement said.
"We are committed to continue investing to improve the quality of mobile, broadband, pay TV and fixed line telephone services to meet the needs of our clients," said Marco Schoeder, Oi's chief executive, after the petition was accepted.
Oi filed its petition with the court on June 20 after talks with creditors ground to a halt ahead of a July debt payment.
The protection provided under Brazilian law is similar to that provided by Chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy code.
Protection will also apply to Oi partners and subsidiaries Portugal Telecom, Telemar Norte Leste, Oi Movel, Copart 4 e 5 Participações and Oi Brasil, the court said.
($1 = 3.24 Brazilian reais) (Reporting by Jeb Blount, additional reporting by Guillermo Parra Bernal in Sao Paulo; Editing by Bernard Orr)
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