Singapore Changi, Odebrecht to Buy Rio Airport for $8.3 Billion

Brazil sold the country’s second-busiest airport for almost four times the minimum bid as part of President Dilma Rousseff’s program to modernize infrastructure and shore up investor confidence.

Odebrecht SA and its partner, a Changi Airport Group unit, offered 19 billion reais ($8.3 billion) to run Galeao airport in Rio de Janeiro, which will host tourists for the soccer World Cup next year and the 2016 Olympic Games, for 25 years. That compares with the minimum required bid of 4.83 billion reais. The contract is expected to be signed in March, Changi Airports International said in an e-mailed statement today.

The real surged as the auction showed Rousseff can attract investors to her 212 billion-reais plan for improving roads, railways, ports and other infrastructure even as growth in Latin America’s largest economy slows. The government is under pressure to complete the projects as the country prepares to welcome a projected 600,000 international visitors for the World Cup in June.

“Those pessimistic about Brazil will have a bitter day today,” Rousseff said yesterday in a speech in the northeastern city of Fortaleza. The airport auction “didn’t go wrong.”

The real rose as the premium on Galeao airport boosted speculation more dollars will flow into Brazil, according to Pablo Spyer, a director at Mirae Asset Management in Sao Paulo. The currency advanced 1.1 percent to 2.2794 against the dollar yesterday.

Best Quality

“The Latin American aviation market presents many growth opportunities,” Lee Seow Hiang, chief executive officer of Singapore’s Changi Airport Group, said in the statement. “We must focus immediately on the expansion of the Galeao airport.”

The first phase of the airfield’s expansion will include building an additional 26 airbridges and parking lots by April 2016, according to the statement. The airport will be able to handle more than 60 million passengers annually by end of the concession period, it said.

Singapore’s air transport system is ranked first for quality in the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Competitiveness Report, based on a survey of more than 13,000 business leaders. Brazil’s system, by contrast, ranks 123rd on the list of 148 countries.

Changi is building a fourth terminal to raise its capacity to 82 million passengers a year by 2017. It was ranked the world’s best airport by Skytrax earlier this year. The airfield was the 13th-busiest in the first eight months of 2013, according to the Airports Council International in Montreal.

Three Airports

Last year, Brazil sold licenses for three airports, including Brasilia and Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos, for a total of 24.5 billion reais. Afterward, the government was criticized for setting terms that failed to draw the world’s biggest airport operators, so the terms were redrawn for the auction.

“I don’t think Odebrecht tore up money with their bid, that’s not for us to say, considering what we bid on Guarulhos last year,” said Antonio Carlos Mata Pires, vice president of OAS Investimentos SA, in an interview at the auction. OAS is an investor in Invepar, which led the group that won Guarulhos last year with a 16.2 billion-real bid, almost five times the minimum.

The auction “is a success of Brazilian-style capitalism, a partnership of government and the private sector,” Adriano Pires, head of the Brazilian Center for Infrastructure in Rio de Janeiro, said by phone.

Rousseff’s infrastructure drive has suffered a series of delays and revisions. The government has not yet auctioned any railway or port concessions, which it originally pledged to do this year. It has pushed back its high-speed rail project to connect Rio and Sao Paulo until after presidential elections next October.

Road Auctions

Earlier this year, the government had to boost the rate of return for road projects after an initial offer didn’t generate interest. Still, one of two roads auctioned in September drew no bids.

The government in October awarded Libra, the country’s largest oil discovery and first pre-salt field auctioned, to a group including state-run Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, and Total SA. The bid involved a 15 billion-reais signing fee, and Libra requires spending of about 400 billion reais over 35 years, according to regulator ANP.

Confins Bid

The Aerobrasil group led by CCR SA, including the operators of Munich’s and Zurich’s airports, yesterday won the right to operate the Confins airport in Belo Horizonte for 30 years. The group offered 1.82 billion reais versus a minimum bid of 1.1 billion reais. CCR shares closed 1.3 percent higher yesterday.

The government will auction three highways before year-end, Finance Minister Guido Mantega told reporters yesterday in Brasilia. One of those road projects is “risky” in terms of attracting bidders, according to Jefferson Finch, an analyst from political risk consultancy Eurasia Group.

“If they can follow this up with three successful highway auctions, it could really be very helpful in turning the boat of sentiment away from negative to more positive,” Finch said by telephone about the airport auction. “It’s going to be an incremental process, but this is going in the right direction for Brazil.”

Brazil’s currency has climbed 1.5 percent over the past five days, its first weekly rally since Oct. 18 and more than all major currencies tracked by Bloomberg. That follows a 10 percent weakening this year amid speculation the country may be downgraded by Standard & Poor’s.

Negative Outlook

S&P in June placed Brazil’s rating on negative outlook, citing weak growth. Rousseff will end her first term next year with the slowest four-year expansion of gross domestic product since 1990, according to the latest central bank survey of economists.

Brazil’s economy grew 2.7 percent in 2011 and 0.9 percent in 2012. Analysts surveyed by the central bank forecast 2.5 percent expansion this year and 2.1 percent next year.

Brazil’s state-run management company Infraero will retain a 49 percent stake in the airports, and the winning bidders will contribute 5 percent of annual revenue to support the country’s other airports.

Five groups submitted bidding documents on Nov. 18. Brazil required bidders for Galeao to have experience managing airports that handle 22 million passengers a year, and for Confins 12 million passengers.

Galeao handled more than 17 million passengers in 2012, according to the civil aviation agency, known as Anac. Confins is the fifth-busiest Brazilian airport, handling more than 10 million last year.

Investment in Galeao is expected to reach 5.7 billion reais, including cargo storage installations in time for the 2016 Olympics, according to Anac. Investment for Confins includes construction of a new terminal and runway, and will reach about 3.5 billion reais.

“This not only shows the companies’ interest, because the winners were large airport companies,” Rousseff said, according to the presidential palace blog. “It shows the immense interest of international investors in Brazil.”

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