BNDES, the national development bank, has approved a loan of 325 million Brazilian Reals to Brasil Telecom requested in mid-2001. The bank is putting the finishing touches to the contract and will release the money by September at the latest. BrT will have seven years to repay, with interest at the TJLP long-term rate plus 2.5% per annum and a risk premium. The fixed-line incumbent telco will use the funds to cover operating requirements and reduce its debt. Last year it requested the loan as a supplement for its own investment in expansion, since at the time it planned to meet regulatory targets ahead of the 2003 deadline. It later abandoned the plan because of disagreements between controlling shareholders Opportunity and Telecom Italia, but didn?t withdraw the loan request.
The BNDES loan comes at a comfortable time for BrT in terms of cash in hand. The telco economized by abandoning early target fulfillment and recently raised 500m BRL from an issue of debentures, building up a war chest for acquisitions. It?s believed keen to take advantage of cheap prices in the telecoms sector. BrT?s board is set to discuss proposals to acquire Intelig, Globenet and Metrored when it next meets on August 8. They?ve been on the agenda for some time, but representatives of pension funds and Telecom Italia delayed a decision, saying more time was needed to examine the feasibility of such acquisitions from the regulatory and economic standpoints.