July 28, 2016 / 10:12 PM / 2 years ago

Brazil judge may soon force vote on Oi board change -lawyer

SAO PAULO, July 28 (Reuters) - The judge overseeing the bankruptcy protection of Brazilian phone carrier Oi SA could force the company to call a shareholder vote on proposed changes to its board as soon as next week, according to a lawyer for an activist shareholder.

The ruling should come after the judge hears opinions from PricewaterhouseCoopers, the in-court administrator in Oi’s bankruptcy, and the public prosecutor’s office, João Mendes de Oliveira Castro, legal advisor to Oi’s minority shareholder Société Mondiale, said in a phone interview on Thursday.

The investment fund recently acquired 7 percent of the Oi’s voting shares and is demanding the replacement of five board executives linked to Portugal-based Pharol SGPS, formerly Portugal Telecom SGPS SA, which owns 27.5 percent of the company’s voting shares, according to its website.

Oi and a court representative declined to comment on the possible ruling by Judge Fernando Viana.

Brazil’s largest fixed-line operator filed last month for protection from creditors on a record 65.4 billion reais ($19.9 billion) of bonds, bank debt and operating liabilities, suffering from stiff competition and years of shareholder spats.

Differences on Oi’s board spoiled efforts to negotiate an out-of-court restructuring, triggering the departure of its chief executive and contributing to tensions among shareholders, sources said at the time.

Société Mondiale, run by Brazilian entrepreneur Nelson Tanure, is open to negotiations with other minority shareholders to promote board changes, Castro said.

Anatel, the industry watchdog, told Société Mondiale in a statement that “no prior authorization” is required to elect new board members for Oi. The statement, seen by Reuters and submitted as evidence to the court by Société Mondiale, said Anatel would weigh in regarding any new board members before they take office. ($1 = 3.28 Brazilian reais) (Reporting by Ana Mano; editing by Grant McCool)

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