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Infrastructure finance: Brazil faces up to infrastructure gaps

Infrastructure financing has become synonymous with Brazilian president Lula’s second-term government. As the country enters the first stage of its largest ever hydroelectric project there is a growing demand for funds that the local market is struggling to source. Chloe Hayward reports from São Paulo.

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LULA WAS INDIGNANT: "We can’t do this project because of a catfish?" When Brazil’s president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, first announced plans to construct the country’s largest hydroelectric power hub, on the Madeira river, the environmentalists put a spanner in the works. Their primary concern was the dourada catfish that migrate up the river each year. But as the president vented his anger at how the catfish could scupper his plans, it was the financiers who put another catfish in the works. Where was the money going to come from to finance such a project?

"There is a gap in [financial] creativity. There is a gap in [financial] alternatives. It is these gaps that all the banks are working to fill – with the projected quantity of infrastructure projects, these gaps need filling," says Jean Pierre Dupui, head of credit markets at Santander Brazil.

The drive to generate long-term project financing solutions in Brazil is now on.

The Madeira river, in the northwest of Brazil, is in the early stages of becoming the largest infrastructure and energy project investment in the country. By 2013, the government hopes to have completed two hydroelectric plants, at Jirau and Santo Antônio, both sites on the river, which will produce up to 8% of the country’s energy, or 7.5MW,

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