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Eletrobras goes private with Bolsonaro bell ring

·1-min read

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro rang the bell at the Sao Paulo stock exchange Tuesday to mark the start of trading in shares of newly privatized electricity company Eletrobras, the second-biggest stock offering worldwide this year.

The launch dilutes the Brazilian government's stake in Eletrobras, Latin America's biggest electricity company, from 72 percent to 45 percent.

It is part of Bolsonaro's plans to privatize state-run companies en masse -- a promise he has largely failed to deliver on nearing the end of his four-year term and facing an uphill battle to win reelection in October.

The share offering raised around 30 billion reais ($6 billion).

Economy Minister Paulo Guedes hailed it as a victory for private-sector efficiency.

"The biggest clean-energy generating company in the world is now free," he said at the event.

"It's like a child who left home at 18 and is going to go out and triumph. It no longer needs the protection of the state, which was becoming detrimental."

Bolsonaro grinned and embraced Guedes as a hail of confetti fell, but did not speak at the event.

Guedes says Eletrobras needs to invest 16 billion reais a year to maintain its market share, but was previously only managing around three billion reais a year.

Critics worry the privatization could lead to higher bills for customers.

The event drew a small protest by dozens of demonstrators outside the stock exchange.

The Bolsonaro administration has also voiced interest recently in privatizing oil firm Petrobras, the biggest company in Brazil.

The state-run firm has drawn the far-right president's ire with a series of recent price increases that are fueling high inflation.

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