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article imageBrazil airport auction tests investor confidence in Bolsonaro

By AFP     Mar 15, 2019 in Business

Spain's Aena snapped up six airports in Brazil on Friday, in an auction seen as the first major test of foreign investor confidence in President Jair Bolsonaro's market-friendly agenda.

The initial sale of concessions to 12 airports generated 2.3 billion reais ($620 million) -- more than 10 times the minimum fee required -- which Bolsonaro said signaled "confidence" in Latin America's biggest economy was returning.

"It's Brazil growing again!" the far-right leader tweeted, hailing a "great victory."

Rights to operate the airports for 30 years -- sold in three separate lots -- were also won by Flughafen Zurich of Switzerland and a Brazilian consortium, Aeroeste. Nine groups competed.

The administrators must invest 3.5 billion reais during the term of the concession.

Brazil is to complete the sale of concessions to 42 airports between 2020 and 2022, including Santos Dumont in Rio de Janeiro and Congonhas in Sao Paulo. The airports auctioned Friday represent 9.5 percent of the domestic market.

Six airports in northeastern Brazil were bought by Aena, two in the center-west went to Zurich, and four in the southeast to Aeroeste.

Aena's successful tender included the auction's most lucrative prize, tourist-magnet Recife airport, a destination seen as having the biggest potential because of its relative proximity to Europe.

Infrastructure minister Tarcisio Freitas said the auction was "a great demonstration of confidence in the country."

Bolsonaro's conservative predecessor Michel Temer initiated a program of privatizations and concessions.

But Bolsonaro, who came to power in January, has made privatizing state-owned companies and overhauling the costly pension system key planks of his policy to reduce soaring public debt and regain investor confidence.

The auction, organized by the National Agency for Civil Aviation and the Sao Paulo stock exchange, was also seen as a test of the market's support for Bolsonaro's economy minister Paulo Guedes, a US-trained free-marketeer.

Guedes is spearheading the government's policy to inject pro-business vigor into an economy still bearing the scars of a record-breaking 2015-2016 recession.

Bolsonaro said previously that of the 138 companies run by the federal government, "100 could be privatized."

Brazil ranks among the countries with the highest number of public companies. But the lack of any detail or progress has disappointed investors.

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