(Refiling to fix typographical error in headline)
By Luciano Costa
SAO PAULO, June 15 (Reuters) - Brazilian utility Companhia Energetica de Minas Gerais has received far more interest than expected in the sale of its telecommunications assets, attracting 16 groups interested in bidding, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Cemig, as the company is widely known, plans to auction the assets of its telecoms unit, Cemig Telecom, for a minimum of 367 million reais ($96.9 million) as part of a plan to reduce its large debt load.
But the interest level in the unit, and its fiber optic network stretching 5,900 miles (9,500 km) across some of Brazil’s wealthiest and most industrial states, could push up that figure.
The 16 interested parties have signed confidentiality agreements in order to participate in this stage of the process, the person said.
“The interest was surprising, a lot more favorable than imagined. They are big companies,” the source said.
Cemig did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Interested companies include telecoms like Claro SA, a unit of Mexico’s America Movil SAB de CV, as well as infrastructure operators such as American Tower Corp and Phoenix Tower, according to the source.
Reuters previously reported that Telefonica Brasil SA , TIM Participacoes SA, Vogel Solucoes em Telecomunicacoes e Informatica SA, Algar Telecom SA and Aloo Telecom were interested in the assets.
Representatives for Claro, Telefonica Brasil, TIM, Vogel, Algar, and Blackstone Group LP, which owns Phoenix Tower, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday. American Tower Corp declined to comment. Representatives for Aloo could not immediately be contacted.
Vogel had confirmed to Reuters in March it was interested in Cemig Telecom, while Telefonica Brasil’s chief operating officer, Christian Gebara, told Reuters in April the company was looking closely at the unit.
The public auction is projected for July 25 with results to be announced on July 27. The sale will be divided into two lots, the first to include Cemig’s fiber network in Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro states, with the second to be held for its network in Goias, Bahia, Pernambuco and Ceara states.
$1 = 3.79 reais Reporting by Luciano Costa; Additonal reporting by Gram Slattery Writing by Jake Spring; Editing by Tom Brown