LISBON, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Portugal Telecom workers called on Monday for the suspension of a shareholder meeting due to be held later today to vote on whether to allow the sale of the company’s assets to rival European telecoms group Altice .
The vote has already been called into question by a number of stakeholders as the sale would effectively unwind last year’s merger between Brazil’s Oi and Portugal Telecom SGPS (PT SGPS), which left the latter as a holding company with a 25.6 percent stake in the enlarged Oi group.
The merger deal soured last year after the now bankrupt Rioforte holding company of Portugal’s Espirito Santo banking family, ultimately a shareholder in PT SGPS, defaulted on nearly 900 million euros of loans from Portugal Telecom, a debt which Oi said it had not been aware of before their merger.
The Brazilian company subsequently agreed to sell PT Portugal to Altice, which is controlled by Franco-Israeli telecoms entrepreneur Patrick Drahi, to help cut its own debts, and is also looking to sell other former PT assets.
But the Altice sale still needs the approval of Portugal Telecom SGPS’s shareholders, prompting questions about whether the wider issue of the entire Oi merger deal should be addressed in the process.
As a result the Workers Union of Portugal Telecom (STPT), which is a shareholder in PT SGPS, will request the “suspension of the general shareholder assembly scheduled for today,” the union said in a statement on Monday.
“STPT is of the understanding that a new general assembly should be called when the annulment of the merger and a retroactive resolution of the contract between PT and Oi should be discussed,” the union said.
Last week Antonio Menezes Cordeiro, the chairman of PT SGPS shareholder assembly, proposed postponing Monday’s vote, arguing that the merger with Oi was invalid.
Share trading in PT SGPS has been suspended since Friday by the CMVM market regulator due to uncertainty surrounding the shareholder meeting.
A spokeswoman for PT SGPS said on Monday the company’s board was meeting but would give no further details.
The shareholder meeting is scheduled to start at 1500 GMT. (Reporting by Daniel Alvarenga; Writing by Axel Bugge; Editing by Greg Mahlich)