Peter Wahlstrom: Oi, the no-moat Brazilian telecom conglomerate, was the worst-performing stock [we cover] in 2014. Shares were down 80% and were reflective of a couple of major uncertainties that investors have.
First, the company effectively has a failed merger with Portugal Telecom (PT), and while the merger vote was approved in May 2014 and Portuguese assets and debt were transferred to Oi, the merger was never completed. In short, this is because Portugal Telecom had another investment in another firm that went bankrupt. And now Oi is in limbo, since every time a major move in Portuguese assets is expected, the Portugal Telecom shareholders need to vote.
Second, now Oi is saddled with more than $19 billion of debt postmerger, and it has reduced financial flexibility. Combine this with the fact that Oi has exposure to a generally slowing Brazilian economy plus rising interest rates and it hasn't been a good combination for the firm.
All is not lost, however, as we think Oi can still benefit from consolidation within the Brazilian telecom industry. And there are some secular trends toward increased data usage and service convergence, which should provide long-term opportunity for the company.