SAO PAULO, Oct 21 (Reuters) - Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris and some creditors of Oi SA are considering pouring up to $1.5 billion into the debt-laden Brazilian telecoms carrier, whose in-court reorganization has failed to gain traction amid rows between bondholders and shareholders, two people with knowledge of the matter said.
Under the terms of the plan, which remains preliminary, the equity injection into Oi would aim to cut its 65.4 billion reais ($21 billion) in debt and give Sawiris and his partners a stake of about 85 percent, said the sources. Partners include about 70 bond firms that are advised by Moelis & Co .
The purpose of the Sawiris-bondholder plan is to wrest control from Oi’s current shareholders, including Portugal’s Pharol SGPS SA and investment firm FIA Société Mondiale, and prepare a potential sale of the company within three years, said one source.
Moelis said on Oct. 11 that joining forces with Sawiris would allow bondholders and the Egyptian tycoon to “discuss and evaluate an alternative recovery plan for Oi” during and after it emerges from bankruptcy.
Oi filed for bankruptcy protection in a commercial court in Rio de Janeiro in June.
Two other sources familiar with the strategy of Oi’s two main shareholders said Sawiris and his camp have not yet approached them, adding that the bidding amount under consideration is too low.
Both sources said the success of the Sawiris-led bid hinges on convincing the government that their proposal would ease friction between creditors, shareholders and suppliers and maintain high-quality service.
All of the sources declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Messages to the media office of Sawiris’ investment firm, Orascom TMT SAE, were not answered.
A representative for Moelis in Brazil declined to comment, as did Pharol and Société Mondiale, controlled by Brazilian distressed-debt investor Nelson Tanure.
The byproduct of a government-sponsored merger at the end of last decade, Oi succumbed to a heavy debt burden, onerous government-mandated investments in money-losing activities and shareholder problems.
The government has expressed concern over the reorganization, saying it would intervene if creditors and stakeholders failed to reach a “market solution” for the company, or if a suitor seeks to break the company into parts.
A series of disputes between Pharol, FIA Société and creditors, and protracted negotiations have delayed discussions about a recovery plan, which was presented on Sept. 5 to creditors. The Moelis-led group of bondholders deemed Oi’s September recovery proposal “unacceptable.”
Sawiris had been linked with a potential takeover of Oi last year and in June, days before Oi filed for bankruptcy protection. ($1 = 3.1571 reais) (Editing by Daniel Flynn and Jeffrey Benkoe)