Companies are likely to take a wait-and-see approach regarding investment decision-making this year. But some segments, benefited by structural reforms or boosted by international prices, will put their money to work.
Basic sanitation, logistics, energy, oil and steelmaking are in the front line, according to company executives and business plans unveiled in documents delivered to the capital market regulator.
These companies, mostly large players on the stock exchange, can be a safe haven for a capital market that is coming off a drop in 2021 while international peers have seen all-time highs.
More than $500 billion in investments have been announced until 2030, according to a preliminary survey by consulting firm Deloitte. The highlights are the petrochemical and steel industries, and projects linked to oil and gas. These are investments unveiled for the medium to long term, with the prospect of a larger volume of allocation of funds this year than in 2021.
Petrobras, Brazil’s largest company by revenues, unveiled in November a $68 billion business plan for the 2022-2026 period – up 23% from the previous one – focused on exploration and production of oil and natural gas. In this period, the divestments foreseen by the state-owned company will be between $15 billion and $25 billion, which in theory paves the way for new investments from the companies that will take over these assets. That has been happening in recent years amid Petrobras’s effort to reduce its debt pile.
In the basic sanitation industry, large figures are also expected. Between 2022 and 2026, water utilities Sabesp (São Paulo), Copasa (Minas Gerais), Sanepar (Paraná) – the three largest listed companies in the sector – and Corsan (Rio Grande do Sul), which is expected to go public this year, have unveiled combined investments of R$45.5 billion, up 67% from the amount spent between 2017 and 2021.
That’s almost eight times what they had on hand at the end of September, and compares with combined assets of R$81 billion and net equity of R$43 billion in the same month. The market capitalization of the three public companies totaled R$37 billion at the beginning of this year. Corsan’s stock offering, a privatization on the stock exchange, may raise R$1 billion.
“Corsan will be the first opportunity of this new cycle to enter the sector through the stock exchange. The basic sanitation market has many gains to be extracted, and there is a lack of companies to invest in, so Corsan can be a vehicle for a future expansion across Brazil,” Fábio Abrahão, head of infrastructure, concessions and public–private partnership at the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES), told Valor last month.
According to the new regulatory framework, from July 2020, the companies will have to provide drinking water to 99% of the population and sewage collection and treatment to 90% by December 31, 2033, which would finally take the country out of its secular backwardness in this sector. Since the approval of the framework, at least R$42.2 billion have been guaranteed by the companies that participated in the auctions organized by the federal government, including that for Rio de Janeiro-based Cedae.
Basic sanitation will be a highlight, credit rating agency S&P Global Ratings said, but it is part of a broader spectrum of the role of infrastructure in attracting investments in the coming years, which goes beyond short-term issues such as elections.
“Infrastructure investors are not short term. Infrastructure is a very deficient field, and taking on this risk is actually taking on Brazil risk,” said Julyana Yokota, an infrastructure analyst at S&P.
Another important road for capital inflow in the communications infrastructure is the fifth-generation mobile network (5G). The auction held in early November will bring R$47.2 billion, according to the National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel), considering fixed concession payments and investments to be made over the term of the contracts.
As expected, Brazil’s largest operators – América Móvil’s Claro, Telefónica and Telecom Italia’s TIM – had a prominent role, but the market will also have new players, which brings more money to the table. Of the 15 bidders, 12 bought frequency blocks, 7 of which are newcomers.
One is Ceará-based Brisanet, which won three lots. A few months earlier, the company went public and raised R$1.25 billion, most of it earmarked for network expansion, according to the prospectus of the IPO.
Mining and steelmaking will continue to have a substantial weight this year – on the stock exchange, trade balance and investments. Vale, Brazil’s largest exporter, set aside $5.8 billion for this year, up 7.4% year-over-year. The mining company’s projection, made in a meeting with analysts in late November, is to maintain capital expenditures around $5 billion to $6 billion per year. The forecast is to reach, by the end of next year, 370 million tonnes of iron ore production capacity, which may recover the levels of demand and price seen in the first half of last year if a Chinese recovery comes after the pandemic comes to an end.
CSN Mineração expects a balanced world iron ore market in 2022, with reduced restrictions on steel production in China and a small increase in supply. The investment planned for this year, about R$5 billion, is 70% higher than that of 2021.
In a meeting with investors in early December, chief financial officer Pedro Oliva said he expects ore to be traded between $100 and $120 a tonne this year. At the peak of what was seen as a new commodities boom at some point, the price was over $200.
In the steel industry, prices are expected to remain at levels much higher than recent years, even with the adjustments already put in place, said Luis Fernando Martinez, executive director at CSN, at the same event. The steelmaker foresees investments of R$4.1 billion this year, up from R$2.8 billion in 2021.
Competitor Gerdau foresees capacity increase investments in Brazil of $500 million starting in 2024. This year, the company will invest $130 million in the North American operations and $140 million in specialty steel.
(André Ramalho, Rafael Rosas and Ana Paula Machado contributed to this story.)
Source: Valor international