LISBON, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Portugal’s government will get involved in the sale of Portugal Telecom’s business by Brazil’s Oi only if there is a risk the country’s leading telecommunications company could be broken up, the economy minister said on Thursday.
Oi has said it might sell Portugal Telecom’s (PT) operations in Portugal after the protracted merger between Oi and PT has been completed. Oi has received a number of offers, including from private equity firms Bain Capital and Apax Partners and from European telecoms group Altice.
“The government is following developments with interest, but we don’t intend to interfere in the process because, frankly, any kind of intervention by the state would only be justified if there is a risk of dismembering (of the company),” Economy Minister Antonio Pires de Lima told journalists.
Pires de Lima added that the continuing sale process could be an opportunity to introduce “greater rationality and competitiveness in the sector.”
Some analysts have said politics could become a factor in the bidding for Portugal Telecom, especially as Angolan entrepreneur Isabel dos Santos has launched a bid for the Lisbon-listed holding company Portugal Telecom SGPS <PTC.LS.
Portugal Telecom SGPS now holds a 25.6 percent stake in Oi and has said she wants PT to remain a Portuguese company.
Dos Santos is already active in the local telecoms market as one of the controlling shareholders of NOS, Portugal’s second largest operator in the sector.
Portugal’s recently privatised postal service CTT has also said it is considering a bid for Portugal Telecom’s operations, which would keep the company in national hands.
Bain Capital and Apax Partners have made an offer valued at 7.075 billion euros while Altice has bid 7.025 billion euros.
Reporting By Daniel Alvarenga; Writing by Axel Bugge; Editing by Mark Heinrich