Oi bondholders want some investors barred from restructuring vote

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Bondholders in Brazilian phone carrier Oi SA want a bankruptcy judge to bar investors who are shareholders as well as creditors from voting next month on a restructuring plan due to a potential conflict of interest, according to a document seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

In a petition filed in Rio de Janeiro, Oi’s two main bondholder groups said shareholders who have also extended financing to the carrier will try to minimize debt repayments to creditors, configuring a “conflicting position.”

Brazilian law bars shareholders who are also lenders to a company under bankruptcy protection from voting in creditor assemblies. The bondholders are Oi’s main creditor and account for more than a third of the carrier’s 65.4 billion reais ($21 billion) in liabilities.

“In this specific case shareholders and creditors are in opposite positions, and perhaps this is the main difficulty to be overcome for the approval of Oi’s judicial recovery plan in the face of the abusive position of Oi’s main shareholders,” the document said.

The document underscores the potential for more legal wrangling ahead of the Oct. 9 creditor vote in Latin America’s largest bankruptcy case to date. Communications Minister Gilberto Kassab earlier this week said peace between creditors and shareholders is key to avert cancelling Oi’s operating licenses.

Legal restrictions on assemblies include controlling stakeholders as well as subsidiaries and affiliates owed money by a parent company.

Oi’s in-court reorganization, which begun in June 2016, has been marked by disputes between shareholders led by Pharol SGPS SA and Societé Mondiale FIA and bondholders represented by the Ad Hoc Group of Bondholders and the International Bondholder Committee.

The rifts have led Kassab to repeatedly threaten to intervene in the carrier.

Oi’s common shares fell 0.2 percent to 4.79 reais, paring back a gain of 81 percent this year.

(Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Editing by Paul Simao)