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China energy firm expands in crisis-hit Brazil

[RIO DE JANEIRO] China's State Grid signed a deal on Tuesday to buy a majority stake in Brazil's electricity giant CPFL for US$4.5 billion, offering a boost to a Latin American giant struggling with recession.

The purchase of a 54.64 per cent stake in CPFL for 14.19 billion reals expands the Chinese company's presence in Brazil, a huge emerging market with some 200 million inhabitants.

Analysts say Chinese firms have been ramping up investments in Brazil, where local firms are selling off assets to help the weather the crisis.

Chinese companies currently have some US$15.2 billion worth of investments in Brazil, according to Bloomberg news.

Another Chinese state energy company, CTG, has bought stakes in various power plants in Brazil since 2013.

The world's largest utility company and China's largest state-owned enterprise, State Grid has pursued deals around the world.

Its attempted purchase of Australian electricity network Ausgrid last year was blocked over national security concerns.

But it boasts other investments in Italy, the Philippines, Portugal and Hong Kong, the company said in a statement.

It entered the Brazilian market in 2010 and already operates transmission lines in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

It runs 10,000km of power transmission lines in Brazil and has another 6,000km under construction, the company said.

State Grid said it aims to extend its presence in electricity transmission and distribution in Brazil as well as generation from renewable sources.

"The aim of acquiring control of CPFL Energy is to diversify State Grid International's business portfolio and to use existing synergies between CPFL and its transmission assets to strengthen our leading position in the Brazilian electricity sector," it said.

State Grid distributes electricity to nearly a billion people across China through local subsidiaries.

China has invested more than US$105 billion in renewable energy though it is still reliant on coal, according the UN figures.

In December, it signed up to build a US$1.5-billion power line across Pakistan.

It also bought a stake in the Greek operator ADMIE.

CPFL is the largest private power company in Brazil and the country's third largest utility provider overall.

It supplies power to millions of people and is a leading supplier of renewable energy, the Chinese company highlighted in its statement.

The Brazilian company sees the deal as "fundamental" to "continuing its path of growth" and strengthening its own position in the sector, CPFL's president Andre Dorf said in a separate statement.

The deal offered Brazil a boost as it fights to scramble out of its deepest recession in decades and stabilize the public finances.

"This investment is good for Brazil because the country needs non-speculative foreign capital for infrastructure services like this," the president of the Electricity Sector Associations Forum, Mario Menel, told AFP.

The Chinese deal gives CPFL an opportunity "to expand, and this can set an example for other Brazilian companies," he said.


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