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Brazil to privatise more airports, railways for grains


BRAZIL'S government will announce the privatisation of southern airports, including Curitiba, in the second quarter of this year, according to Adalberto Vasconcelos, head of the PPI government programme tasked with luring private investment in the country's infrastructure.

Mr Vasconcelos said the Ferrograo and FIOL railway projects serving the central grain belt would be ready for bidding this year or early in 2020. Miner Vale SA and logistics company Rumo SA are also expected to sign early renewal of rail concessions this year, involving a commitment to new investments, he said.

Chinese investment would be "very well received" in Brazilian infrastructure projects, Mr Vasconcelos said.

Brazil's new right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro criticised China for "buying up" Brazil during the election campaign last year. But Mr Vasconcelos clarified that he was referring to strategic assets and "means of production" such as farm land.

Mr Bolsonaro, who took office three weeks ago, is boosting the Investment Partnerships Programme started in 2016 by the previous government to speed up improvements in deficient infrastructure that adds to the cost of exporting Brazilian soy and other food.

To improve air travel across the vast country for tourism, farming and the oil industry, 20 airports will be auctioned on March 15 as planned in three regional blocs.

Mr Vasconcelos said one or two more blocs of airport concessions will be announced after March, including Curitiba, but not the coveted busy airport of Congonhas in Sao Paulo and Santos Dumont in Rio de Janeiro. These will not be on the auction block for now because they are key to funding Infraero, the government agency that manages airports.

The government plans to reduce Brazil's heavy reliance on road transport for moving cargo to markets and ports by building more railways and getting current operators to invest in expansion as they sign renewals of their concessions.

By 2025, it hopes to double the share of cargo moved by rail to 31 per cent from 15 per cent, Mr Vasconcelos said.

Vale, the world's second largest mining company and top iron ore exporter, and Rumo have already agreed and their contracts only need approval by the federal audits court TCU, he said.

The Ferrograo grain railway will take 10 years to build, he said, and run from Sinop in Mato Grosso state to Miritituba on the Tapajós river from where barges will carry crops for transshipment on the Amazon and out to world markets.

The FICO and FIOL railways will connect the farm belt to the North-South line and Atlantic ports, with a capacity to move out eight million tonnes of grains a year.

The PPI programme run by Mr Vasconcelos will be responsible for handling concessions and privatisations of state companies, though the sale of their assets or subsidiaries will be handled by the divestment office at the Ministry of Economy. REUTERS