New contract provides for investments of R$10.4bn in construction
Tarcila Reis Jordão — Foto: Silvia Zamboni/Valor
The government of São Paulo is expected to hold the Noroeste Paulista lot auction this Thursday. It is the new bidding of two toll road concessions that are coming to an end: Tebe (controlled by engineering companies) and Triângulo do Sol (owned by Bertin and the Italian group Atlantia).
The lot includes 600 kilometers of roads, which connect cities such as São José do Rio Preto, Araraquara, São Carlos and Barretos. In all, the new contract foresees R$10.4 billion in capital expenditure in construction, in addition to R$4 billion in operating costs over the course of the 30-year contract.
Among the main interventions, 123 kilometers of road dualling, 99 kilometers of third lanes, 42 pedestrian overpasses, and others are planned. “The new concession is a mature asset from the standpoint of demand, but it needs to expand its capacity,” said Tarcila Reis Jordão, São Paulo’s deputy secretary of partnerships.
In the market, the forecast is that there will be at least one person interested in the asset. The São Paulo government believes there will be competition. “The expectation is very positive. There is a prospect of two to four bidders, which is very relevant for a R$10 billion investment project, on the eve of an election and after all these input price variations. We are excited,” Ms. Jordão said.
Pátria is pointed out as a strong candidate, due to the synergy that would exist with the road network already operated by the company. Last week, CCR told Valor that it would “most likely” compete for the asset. Ecorodovias has also hinted to the market about its interest in the project, although its high level of leverage is seen as a possible obstacle.
Besides these groups, Arteris and Acciona have analyzed the asset, according to sources. Arteris could also see synergies, but has not participated in auctions for years and was put up for sale by its shareholders, which reduces any expectation about it.
Ecorodovias said it seeks “projects that have synergy with the concessions portfolio and are aligned with sustainable growth guidelines.” Arteris says it “evaluates opportunities for new projects that fit the requirements of risk-return required by its shareholders.” Pátria and Acciona declined to comment.
A factor that helps to make the concession attractive, according to analysts, is that tolls are already charged on the highways, in addition to a known traffic history, which reduces the risk of demand and guarantees revenue generation since the beginning of the contract.
“The fact that these are highways that were in the hands of two concessionaires is well regarded. Besides the question of demand, there is more security in relation to the conditions of the roads than if they were operated by public agencies,” said Letícia Queiroz de Andrade, a partner at the law firm Queiroz Maluf.
Caio Loureiro, a partner at the law firm TozziniFreire, the perception that this is a low-risk project could even attract the participation of a new entrant.
In the bidding, the winner will be the one who offers the highest fixed concession payment, whose minimum value was set at R$7.6 million. In addition to this initial payment, the contract provides for a variable disbursement of 8.5% of gross revenue.
The funds from the variable fee should be mostly destined for an account that will serve as a “safety cushion” to mitigate the risks of toll default. The project foresees free-flow toll collection. In this system, there are no toll plazas, and the fee is collected electronically (through gantries), according to the distance traveled. The transition from the physical plazas to the system will take seven years.
The new concession foresees a 10% reduction in the value of the tariff in relation to the prices currently charged. For vehicles that use toll tags, there will be another 5% reduction. Besides this, the project foresees additional discounts for frequent users.
According to analysts, this auction will not necessarily be the last major highway bid this year. Mr. Loureiro, with TozziniFreire, points out that there are still expectations regarding other relevant federal projects: the auction of the BR-040 highway, between Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro; one or two lots of the Paraná highways; and the BR-381 highway, in Minas Gerais.
For Ms. Queiroz, the greatest demand today is for medium-sized projects, not large auctions. “The market is heated, there is interest mainly in smaller projects, in the states,” she said. Today, however, these initiatives are affected by the elections, which cast doubt on the continuity of the concessions.
*By Taís Hirata — São Paulo
Source: Valor International