May 23, 2016 / 3:24 PM / 3 years ago

Exclusive - Brazil prepares investor meetings for state asset sales

BRASILIA/SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The Brazilian government plans to host a round of investor meetings to market a broad plan of asset sales, a key initiative to help raise cash and cut a record budget deficit, a senior official and people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Pedro Parente (R), newly named chief executive of Brazil's state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA looks on during a meeting with Brazil's interim President Michel Temer at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, May 19, 2016. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

According to Wellington Moreira Franco, the head of a government agency to draw foreign investment to Brazil, a round of so-called roadshows will help advertise the assets and the legal and regulatory framework behind the plan. He did not give a timetable nor say which assets will be sold.

The planned sales, which could be Brazil’s most ambitious privatization drive in two decades, offer more evidence of a policy shift since the Senate’s decision earlier this month to suspend leftist President Dilma Rousseff and try her on charges of breaking budgetary rules.

Five sources with knowledge of the plan told Reuters over the past week that Moreira Franco and Foreign Affairs Minister José Serra will lead the roadshows, which may take place in New York, London and other financial hubs. Two of the sources said the presentations are scheduled for mid-July.

The list of ready-for-sale assets is still in the making. Yet, interim President Michel Temer wants to sell majority stakes in the fuel distribution unit of oil producer Petróleo Brasileiro SA Petrobras and in power utility Furnas Centrais Elétricas SA, and in ventures in which airport authority Infraero has minority interests, the sources said.

Moreira Franco said the programme’s goal is to help create jobs as Brazil wrestles with a two-year long recession and slumping commodity prices. Still, the plan could help Brazil raise extra funds to narrow a deficit that most economists forecast to top 10 percent of gross domestic product this year.

“It’s time to end with the government monologue and start building solutions with our partners,” Moreira Franco said late on Friday, adding that the legal and investment framework will be designed in a way that bidders “feel safe and confident.”

Temer, Rousseff’s replacement during the impeachment trial and afterwards if she is found guilty, has vowed to streamline Brazil’s bloated state and open room for more private investment.

Qatar Investment Authority, Abu Dhabi Investment Co PJSC, and Mubadala Development Co PJSC are among the sovereign wealth funds invited to attend the roadshows, three of the sources said. Canadian investment firms and European infrastructure companies have already been contacted too, the sources added.

Moreira Franco declined to give an estimate of how much the government could fetch from asset sales, although two of the sources said proceeds from stake divestitures could range between $10 billion (7 billion pounds) and $20 billion over the next two years.

Some of the largest investment banks operating in Brazil will also attend the meetings, many of them representing potential buyers, the sources added.

In a statement to Reuters, Temer’s office said the government “plans to transfer to private investors several assets, stakes and companies, although it is still analyzing which and which others will remain in the hands of the state.” Serra’s office declined to comment.

Mubadala is unlikely to attend, a spokesman said. Spokespeople for QIA and ADIA, as well as the Canadian firms including Brookfield Asset Management Inc, declined to comment.

SANITATION, LOTTERIES

Temer planned to deliver to lawmakers later on Monday a request to raise a key budget deficit target for this year, which requires congressional approval before the end of the month to avoid a government shutdown. The new estimate is for the so-called primary deficit goal, or the difference between spending and revenues before debt payments.

Brazilian equities, bonds and currency have gained in recent months, on optimism that an eventual removal of Rousseff from office for breaking budgetary rules could usher in more business-friendly policies.

Moreira Franco noted that the asset sale programme and contacts with investors could also help the government resume auctions of oil and natural gas exploration permits.

The programme will be implemented in phases that will hinge on the ability of officials and their advisors to prepare deals, the sources noted. Moreira Franco said that no banks have yet been hired to advise on the programme.

According to the sources, the government will first offer those state companies with the most attractive or profitable business models, keeping a smaller stake in them. At a later stage, the government would try to exit stakes in privately-held or listed companies owned by BNDESPar, an investment holding company controlled by state development bank BNDES, they said.

The Temer administration is considering asking debt-laden regional governments to sell to investors or surrender to the federal government their stakes in some of their sanitation firms, one of the sources said. Other assets that could be put for sale include state lender Caixa Econômica Federal’s insurance unit and lottery licensing, the same source said.

Between 1995 and 2002, then-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso embarked on the sale of mining firms, utilities banks and licenses to operate telecommunications and electricity networks that raised about $78 billion. Cardoso sold 10 companies as well as five road and seven railway concessions, more than any other president in the country’s history.

Brazil’s federal government has 2 trillion reais ($568 billion) in direct or indirect stakes in about 77 companies, according to data compiled by Economática and Thomson Reuters. Among federal agencies that invest in state-controlled as well as private-sector companies is BNDESPar, which manages 45 billion reais in equity holdings.

With additional reporting by Ethan Lou in Toronto, Stanley Carvalho in Abu Dhabi and Tom Finn in Doha; Editing by Mary Milliken and Frances Kerry

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