China Telecommunications Corp, the country's third largest telecom carrier by mobile subscribers, said on Wednesday that Brazilian telecom company Oi SA was among the several potential targets it had considered for investment, Bloomberg reported.
The news came after its two rivals－China Mobile Communications Corp and China United Network Communications Group Co Ltd－set up subsidiaries in Brazil earlier this year to pursue business opportunities in the large South American country.
"We have been actively looking for overseas expansion and have looked at many different projects, including Oi," said Yang Jie, chairman of China Telecom, in an interview at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
Yang's words represent the most explicit public remarks about China Telecom's interest in the debt-laden Brazilian firm.
Oi, which provides phone services in hundreds of Brazilian cities, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. Also known as the largest filing of this kind in the country's history, the carrier has been struggling with a debt of $19 billion.
"Compared with other economies in South America, Brazil has an array of advantages as it is not only one of the major powers with the fastest economic growth but also has a stable political environment and hence an ideal market for telecom firms," said Xiang Ligang, a smartphone expert and CEO of telecom industry website Cctime.
China Telecom disclosed earlier this year that the carrier will invest more than $1 billion over the next three to five years to expand its presence in economies related to the Belt and Road Initiative.
Its rivals China Mobile and China Unicom set up branches in Brazil respectively in September and October.
"An investment in Oi is very valuable for China Telecom, for a local partner will make its expansion plan far easier. With an increasing number of Chinese traveling abroad in recent years, having an overseas presence has become very important for Chinese telecom firms," he added.
By the end of 2016, China Telecom had more than 4,700 overseas employees, with branches and offices in 30 countries and regions, most of which are involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.
The State-owned company said it would also step up resources to complete four cross-border telecom infrastructure initiatives, including the China-Pakistan information corridor, the China-Laos-Thailand and the China-Bangladesh-Myanmar-India projects.