UPDATE 2-Altice offers to buy Portugal Telecom's home business for $8.8 bln

lunes 3 de noviembre de 2014 10:20 GYT

(Updates with details, comment throughout)

By Axel Bugge

LISBON Nov 3 (Reuters) - Telecoms group Altice SA has made a bid worth 7.03 billion euros ($8.8 billion) for the Portuguese operations of Brazil's Oi as Oi unwinds its troubled merger with Portugal Telecom.

Altice, controlled by Franco-Israeli billionaire telecoms entrepreneur Patrick Drahi, already owns two small cable companies in Portugal and buying the former state-owned monopoly would vault it into prime position to compete with Vodafone and Optimus.

Drahi said in September that Altice was looking at acquisition targets in countries where it was already present, such as Portugal and Belgium, even though its majority-controlled French cable firm Numericable Group SA is still in the throes of completing its landmark purchase from Vivendi SA of France's second largest mobile operator, SFR.

Oi's new interim chief executive, Bayard Gontijo, said last month that the company could sell Portuguese assets acquired with its takeover of Portugal Telecom (PT) in order to pay down mounting debts of over $18 billion..

Oi's merger with PT soured this summer after the Rioforte holding company of the Espirito Santo banking family, ultimately a shareholder in PT, defaulted on nearly 900 million euros ($1.14 billion) of debt owed to PT, a debt which Oi said it had not been aware of before their merger deal.

As a result PT's shareholding in Oi was sharply reduced in a revision of the merger terms, leaving PT with only 25.6 percent of Oi instead of the 38 percent previously agreed. It also led to the resignation last month of Zeinal Bava, the chief executive of the new company and former chief executive of PT.

Altice said the bid for the PT assets was for "the existing business of Portugal Telecom outside of Africa and excludes Portugal Telecom's Rio Forte debt securities, Oi treasury shares and Portugal Telecom financing vehicles."   Continuación...