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Credit Suisse Cuts Recommendation on Brazil Mobile Phone Company TIM

By Matthew Cowley SAO PAULO--Swiss investment bank Credit Suisse Thursday cut its recommendation on shares of Brazilian mobile phone company TIM Participacoes SA (TSU, TIMP3.BR) after the government stopped it from selling new lines because of quality problems. Credit Suisse cut its recommendation on TIM's shares to underperform from neutral, and suggested switching into the shares of rival operator Telefonica Brasil SA (VIV, VIVT.BR), which wasn't affected by the government ban on sales. On Wednesday, Brazil's telecom regulator, Anatel, banned TIM and two other phone companies, Oi SA (OIBR, OIBRC, OIBR4.BR) and Claro, the unit of Mexico's America Movil (AMX, AMOV, AMX.MX), from selling new mobile phone lines until it gets sufficient assurances on investments to improve quality of service. "TIM is the company most directly affected by the ruling," Credit Suisse said in a note. "We downgrade the shares from neutral to underperform and recommend shifting exposure from TIM Part to Telefonica Brasil (Vivo). Vivo was the only one of the four major operators not subject to sales bans in any regions." TIM, a unit of Telecom Italia SpA (TI, TIA, TIT.MI), won't be allowed to sell new mobile phones in 19 states, Oi in five states and Claro in three states, Anatel said. Significantly, Claro won't be allowed to sell phones in Brazil's wealthiest and most populous state, Sao Paulo, while TIM won't be allowed to sell lines in Rio de Janeiro state. TIM's shares plunged Thursday morning, as investors digested the news. Shares traded in Sao Paulo were down more than 7%, while the Ibovespa index was up 1%. Shares in Telefonica were down 0.5%. Shares in Oi were up 3.6%. Credit Suisse said Wednesday's 4% loss by Oi was "likely overdone, as the impact of Anatel's ruling on Oi is limited to a small portion of its operations." Growth rates in Brazilian mobile were already on a declining trend based on market saturation, rejuvenated competition from Oi, lower mobile termination rates, and weak economic growth, Credit Suisse said. "The temporary prohibition on sales of new lines and increased regulatory scrutiny of quality are likely to create more challenges to grow, especially for TIM," it said. In a statement, TIM said it was "fairly surprised" by the regulator's decision, and the "extreme measure" was "disproportionate" and anti-competitive. It said it has invested close to 3 billion Brazilian reais per year over the last four years to increase capacity and extend its network coverage. Write to Matthew Cowley at matthew.cowley@dowjones.com Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

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