(Adds Altice statement)
By Leila Abboud and Guillermo Parra-Bernal
PARIS/SAO PAULO, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Telecoms group Altice SA has agreed to buy the Portuguese operations of Brazil’s Grupo Oi for about 7.4 billion euro ($9.2 billion), it said in a statement on Sunday.
“Altice announces that it has entered into an exclusivity agreement with Oi to agree the purchase of the Portuguese assets of Portugal Telecom,” said the statement.
The two sides will spend three weeks to finalise the acquisition and complete due diligence.
Altice beat out a rival bid from private equity funds Apax and Bain, and will now add another country to its portfolio of cable and mobile companies in France, Israel, and the Dominican Republic among others.
Controlled by Franco-Israeli billionaire entrepreneur Patrick Drahi, Altice is fresh from completing its biggest acquisition last Thursday via subsidiary French cable company Numericable ’s buy of mobile operator SFR.
The deal with Oi marks the effective unwinding of Oi’s ill-fated merger with Portugal Telecom, which hit the rocks earlier this year when the Portuguese side lost hundreds of millions of euros in the country’s Espirito Santo banking scandal.
Altice already owns two small cable companies in Portugal and buying the former state-owned monopoly Portugal Telecom would vault it into prime position to compete with Vodafone and Optimus.
It will use existing cash and new debt to finance the bid. Altice’s offer valued Portugal Telecom at 7.4 billion euros on a cash and debt-free free basis, and included 500 million euros in additional payments related to the future revenue generation of Portugal Telecom.
The sale of Oi’s Portuguese assets could also touch off long-mooted mobile consolidation in Brazil where Oi is the biggest fixed telephone provider and number three in mobile.
Oi has been working on a plan to team up with rivals in its domestic market to buy and then break up TIM Participacoes SA , the nation’s No 2 wireless carrier.
But Oi needs to dispose of some assets to lower its debt burden, currently at about 46 billion reais, and gain financial muscle to participate in the TIM bid.
A source with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters last month that Oi, Telefonica and America Movil will place a bid worth 32 billion reais for TIM, which is 67 percent controlled by Telecom Italia, and then seek to split it among them.
The bid could be presented within days after the Portugal Telecom deal is confirmed, analysts and bankers said.
$1 = 0.8019 euros Editing by Andrew Callus