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SAO PAULO, June 23 (Reuters) - Oi SA has unveiled a plan that facilitates the early repayment of small debts to suppliers and contractors, as Brazil's No. 4 wireless carrier seeks to emerge faster from creditor protection.
The plan was made public in newspaper ads on Friday. Under its terms, all creditors will be eligible for an early repayment of their debts to a maximum limit of 50,000 reais ($15,000) each.
According to Chief Executive Officer Marco Schroeder, the plan seeks Oi's so-called Classes 1, 3 and 4 of creditors to negotiate ahead of a vote on the carrier's bankruptcy plan. About 53,000 out of Oi's 55,000 creditors can be considered as small creditors, he said.
The initiative underscores Schroeder's efforts to untangle a protracted reorganization that has met fierce resistance from creditors and major shareholders. At stake is the recovery of a carrier that employs about 140,000 people and is the only phone company operating in about one-third of Brazil's cities.
"This facilitates bankruptcy protection procedures and incentivizes earlier settlements with creditors with smaller accounts receivable," Schroeder told Reuters.
Reuters first reported the plan in November.
Rio de Janeiro-based Oi filed for bankruptcy protection a year ago on 65.4 billion reais of debt. The carrier's in-court reorganization remains Latin America's biggest ever to date.
The amount owed to the targeted members of the three classes is over 800 million reais ($239 million), or just 1.2 percent of Oi's debt under restructuring, Schroeder said. Still, reducing the size of Oi's creditor list could help management focus on negotiating with banks and bondholders, he said.
Schroeder said he expects Oi's board to discuss a final, amended restructuring plan "within days or weeks," before delivering it to creditors. He upheld a September deadline for a creditor vote, which he announced in a June 9 interview.
The judge in charge of Oi's bankruptcy protection had backed the plan in December. Oi's two largest groups of creditors did not have an immediate comment on the plan.
Initially, creditors owed more than 50,000 reais could get 90 percent of that 10 business days after signing on the plan, and the rest once the bankruptcy court validates Oi's in-court reorganization, Schroeder said.
$1 = 3.3412 reais Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Editing by Lisa Shumaker