The ongoing consolidation saga in Brazil became even more complicated on Tuesday when local player Oi announced that it is considering making a move for TIM.
The telco has hired Banco BTG Pactual to advise it on its alternatives with regard to acquiring Telecom Italia's shares in TIM Brasil, it revealed in a statement.
It did not provide any further information, other than committing to keeping shareholders and the market informed of any developments.
Up until now, Oi had been the only telco not named as a likely participant in the expected upcoming M&A in the Brazilian telecom market.
Telefonica has submitted a bid worth €6.7 billion for Vivendi's fixed-line and broadband operator GVT and Telecom Italia is expected to follow suit; both European telcos are keen to merge GVT with their local mobile operations, Vivo and TIM respectively. Meanwhile, Vodafone is reportedly keen to acquire one of the big three in Brazil – Vivo, TIM and America Movil's Claro – although it is currently unclear whether there is any substance to that rumour.
Oi has been left out of the equation in no small part because it is in the process of merging with Portugal Telecom, a move that should help both companies build some economies of scale. A merger of that size would appear to be more than enough to occupy the attention of any telco, but Oi is clearly concerned enough about being left out of the reshaping of its home market that it is willing to spread itself more thinly.
And perhaps with good reason.
Oi holds an 18.5% share of the Brazilian mobile market as of mid-year, according to the latest figures from regulator Anatel, putting it in a distant fourth place behind the big three, all of which have market shares of 25% or above. In terms of total accesses, including mobile and fixed, Oi is in third place, ahead of TIM, according to consultancy Teleco. But should TIM merge with GVT, it would leapfrog Oi, while a merger between Vivo and GVT would establish that company as a clear market leader. In both cases, Oi would run the risk of being cut further adrift.
Despite the complexities of its tie-up with Portugal Telecom, Oi obviously believes it cannot afford to be left behind in Brazil.