Gas: Government part for privatizations

Plans of the government Jair Bolsonaro to increase competition in the natural gas market in Brazil can generate a wave of privatizations of distributors of the input and attract large international and local companies to evaluate the assets, experts said to Reuters, although there is some doubt about the speed of this movement.

Among the potential stakeholders, they cited groups that already work in the sector in the country, such as the Brazilian Cosan and the Spanish Naturgy, foreigners such as Portuguese Galp, the French Engie and also Spanish Repsol, as well as companies of fuels and LPG and agents Financial resources, such as pension and investment funds.

The new gas market program, presented at the end of June, predicts among its guidelines that companies "with dominant position" should sell all holdings in distribution concessionaires, which in practice should lead to state-owned Petrobras to seek Buyers for their slices in 19 gas distributors, from 27 companies operating in the sector in Brazil.

The state oil tanker also signed an agreement with the Administrative Council for Economic Defense (Cade) this month that provides for the alienation of all its assets of gas transportation and distribution up to 2021.

"No doubt… In fact, we are going to watch this process of privatizations, a very strong sales process of gas distributors for private hands, "said the managing partner of consulting Gas Energy, Rivaldo Moreira Neto.

He also recalled that the resolution of the National Energy Policy Council (CNPE) on the new gas market determines that the ministries of Mines and Energy and the economy "encourage states" to privatize their state-owned gas distribution.

"These are forces that add up. The decision of Cade, the strategic decision of Petrobras (to leave the sector). And at the same time federal government incentives for states to give up their state. "

Petrobras has mainly minority slices in state gas companies through Gaspetro, a subsidiary in which the Japanese Mitsui owns 49% of the shares. She still controls her own GasBrasiliano in São Paulo.

"I think it will come a lot of investor from outside. For example, Portuguese Galp, Repsol, Engie, these large, "said the lawyer specializing in gas Cid Tomanik Pompeu Filho, of the office Tomanik Pompeu. He also bets on a great interest of Cosan, which operates with sugar, ethanol, fuels and logistics, besides controlling from 2012 to Comgás, responsible for the distribution of gas in São Paulo.

"The Cosan when he entered the Comgás was tiling, but after she saw the business that is, she wants to buy others," he added, pointing out that the company could have synergies in the acquisition of GasBrasiliano, for example.

Private agents that already work with distribution in Brazil, such as Naturgy (ex-Gas Natural Fenosa), are "natural candidates", while fuel distribution companies or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and electric energy can also be interested, in Gas Energy evaluation.

The characteristics of the assets must still generate appetite for financial investors, said the partner of the law firm Mattos Filho for the infrastructure area, Giovani Loss.

"These assets have a not so representative return, proportionally speaking, but it is a guaranteed return, let's say, a cash flow… Financial investors see the opportunity to take an asset like that and work on top, "he said, pointing out that these players could still later seek to sell or open the capital of operations.

Engie, who has already publicly admitted interest in looking at Petrobras distributors, did not respond to a comment request, as well as Repsol and Galp. Cosan didn't want to speak.

Naturgy said in a statement that "it supports the liberalisation of the market", but reinforced "the importance that all changes are made with critical analysis so that the objectives can be achieved for the whole market, avoiding losses difficult to be reversed".

Speed

The government movement, however, can suffer some resistance, with many states opposed to the idea of losing control of their gas companies, according to experts.

With this, there are some doubts about the pace with which business will take place, with a tendency that states with major tax problems can more easily adhere to the plan in exchange for incentives from the federal government, such as renegotiation of debts.

The Government of Rio Grande do Sul, for example, has already approved a project that allows the privatization of state-owned SulGás, but there is an expectation that some states may reject this path, especially those controlled by leftist parties, as in the northeast.

"Everything has to be seen very cautiously. I don't think these things are going to happen very quickly, I don't think they're going to come in this wave and speed… Everything will happen in a very slow and gradual way, are large investments, "said FGV Energia researcher Fernanda Delgado.

"We do not know the time and movement of this exit (from the state), if they will be all, if it will be all at once… I guess that doesn't come as a wave, it reverberates like a pebble you throw in the river. "

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