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Going private, getting rich

The world's biggest privatization programme is being lined up in Brazil. Individual states and municipalities are joining the federal government in a sell-off jamboree. Proceeds could top $13 billion during the coming 12 months alone. Besides the money, the sales will bring in new management to help awaken the fabled sleeping giant, as Michael Marray reports

Brazil's privatization process has stepped up a powerful gear. A mainly federal programme last year, it has now been joined with gusto by the state governments which are putting their own huge assets on the block. Behind them, the municipalities are planning sell-offs too in such sectors as water supply and sewage treatment.

The fact that privatization has been very much taken on board by the individual states and municipalities, despite opposition from such groups as the trade unions, is due in part to aggressive promotion by the federal development bank, Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Economico e Social (BNDES). Though not involved directly in state privatizations, the bank is exerting its influence, offering consultancy services on sales and in some cases pushing the states to speed up the sell-offs by offering loan programmes collateralized against future privatization proceeds.

At the same time BNDES remains very busy with its own schedule of upcoming federal privatizations. Telecoms is one important sector but the immediate focus is upon the mining conglomerate Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD). Everyone concerned with the Brazilian privatization programme, from investment bankers to foreign investors, is looking to BNDES to get this deal done in the near future.

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