September 21, 2016 / 12:37 PM / in 2 years

Mexico's America Movil eyes acquisition of Brazilian rival Oi -Valor

SAO PAULO, Sept 21 (Reuters) - America Movil SAB is interested in acquiring some or all of the operations run by struggling Brazilian rival Oi SA, the chief executive of the Mexican telecom giant said in a newspaper interview published on Wednesday.

Brazilian paper Valor Economico reported that Daniel Hajj, CEO of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s telecom empire, said he was eyeing an acquisition of Oi operations whether or not the company is split up in the midst of an in-court restructuring.

“We are open to looking at anything,” Hajj said in the Valor report. “I am very interested in participating in the (market)consolidation in Brazil, but I don’t know how it will happen.”

America Movil representatives in Brazil did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Oi declined to comment.

Hajj’s remarks are likely to renew speculation about merger activity in Brazil’s telecommunications market, where four major rivals have struggled to maintain profits in a deep recession while keeping up costly investments in new broadband technology.

Telecom Italia SpA, which controls Brazilian wireless carrier TIM Participações SA, engaged Oi in merger talks at the start of the year, but new management at the Italian company has shown less interest in dealmaking.

America Movil and Spain’s Telefonica SA, whose Telefonica Brasil SA is the biggest telecom in the country, have never ruled out a deal with Oi, but their scale in Brazil mean tough antitrust hurdles for an outright takeover.

Any dealmaking is expected to hinge on cooperation from the government, Oi’s second-biggest creditor, which is reviewing onerous fixed-line concessions and keeping a close eye on licensing and antitrust issues that are key to consolidation.

Oi filed in June for protection from creditors in the country’s biggest-ever bankruptcy case, involving 65.4 billion reais ($20 billion) in bonds, bank debt and operating liabilities.

$1 = 3.26 Brazilian reais Reporting by Brad Haynes

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