Telefónica strikes new deal to take control of Brazilian operator Vivo, leaving Portugal Telecom with the potential to invest in a rival carrier

July 28, 2010

3 Min Read
Viva La Vivo Deal

After more than two months of chasing and bidding, Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) appears to have finally landed its Brazilian prey.

The Spanish giant announced today that it has reached an agreement to buy Portugal Telecom SGPS SA (NYSE: PT)'s 50 percent stake in Brasilcel, the duo's joint venture that holds a 60 percent stake in Brazilian mobile operator Vivo Participacoes SA . The agreement is being considered by the boards of both carriers today.

Telefónica didn't specify a price, but it is believed to be €7.5 billion (US$9.75 billion), a cool €1.8 billion ($2.34 billion) higher than its first offer, made in May. (See Telefónica €5.7B Bid for Vivo Rejected.)

Telefónica thought it had clinched a deal late last month, but the Portuguese government blocked the acquisition, which at that point was priced at €7.15 billion ($9.28 billion). (See Telefónica's $8.8B Brazilian Deal Blocked.)

According to reports from the Spanish press, no such interference is expected with the new deal.

So now it seems Telefónica is on course to implement its preferred strategy in Brazil, which involves combining its existing fixed line asset, Telecomunicações de São Paulo S.A. (Telesp, or Telefónica Brazil), with Vivo. Telesp has around 16 million voice, broadband, and pay TV customers, including 2.4 million DSL customers, while Vivo has more than 54 million mobile customers, giving it a mobile market share of around 30 percent. (See Brazil Preps for Mobile Upheaval.)

Portugal Telecom, meanwhile, could use its Vivo deal proceeds to invest in another overseas asset to help boost its top and bottom lines, as its current stake in Vivo generates about half of its quarterly revenues.

Portugal Telecom currently has a number of minor international investments in Africa (including Angola, Cape Verde, and Namibia) and South-East Asia (Macao and East Timor), but also owns an IT services company in Brazil called GPTI, which it acquired in February. Should the Vivo deal be completed, it's expected that Portugal Telecom will look to retain its broader involvement in the Brazilian market by taking a stake in Oi, a direct competitor to Vivo and Telesp.

According to a Reuters report, talks are already underway regarding a potential investment by Portugal Telecom in Tele Norte Leste Participacoes S.A. (better known as Oi), Brazil's main fixed line operator and a major mobile services player.

At the end of March, Oi had about 21 million fixed voice lines, 4.3 million fixed broadband connections, and 36.6 million mobile customers, giving it a mobile market share of around 21 percent. It generated revenues of $6.53 billion during the first quarter of this year.

It's perhaps not surprising that Portugal Telecom wants to remain involved in the Brazilian market, the largest in Latin America. According to a recent Pyramid Research report, Brazil: 3G and Service Bundling Will Drive Network Operator Revenue Growth, the country's telecom services market is set for a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.94 percent during the next five years to be worth about $70 billion in 2014, driven by increasing demand for mobile data and fixed broadband services.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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