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By Luciano Costa de Paula and Marcelo Teixeira
BARUERI, Brazil, June 12 (Reuters) - Electricity holding company AES Brasil plans to expand its power generation capacity in Brazil through new projects and acquisitions, aiming to gain market share in the profitable segment, Chief Executive Officer Britaldo Soares said on Friday.
AES Brasil, formally known as Cia Brasiliana de Energia SA, will use its generation unit AES Tiete SA to carry out the plan, which would include growing assets in the thermal, wind and solar power segments, he said.
AES Tietê's debt levels are low, paving way for the use of leverage to back any expansion plans, he said.
"Our strategy is to expand in these three areas, both with greenfield projects and looking at opportunities of acquisitions in the market," Soares told Reuters in an interview.
The company said it is ready to start construction of a 550 megawatt gas-fired thermal power plant in São Paulo state, if prices in an upcoming power auction are attractive. The idea is to import liquid natural gas and use state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA's regasification terminals, he said.
Much of Brazil's new power generation in coming years will come from gas-fired plants, he said, adding that building its own regasification terminal could be an option.
AES Brasil may consider bidding for Petrobras' portfolio of thermal power plants should they be put up for sale as part of a $13.7 billion asset divestment plan for the next two years.
Soares ruled out investment in new hydropower dams, saying the returns they offer are too low for the group.
AES Brasil is the local subsidiary of AES Corp.
Soares said the group is also looking at new areas for growth, taking advantage of its client base of 24 million in the metropolitan area of São Paulo, Brazil's largest city.
AES Brasil controls AES Eletropaulo Metropolitana SA , Brazil's largest power distributor.
The holding company set up a joint venture with Dutch company Koninklijke Philips NV to dispute a contract to provide street lightning in São Paulo for the next 20 years.
"This may be the largest public-private partnership project of its kind in the world today", said Soares.
Another area that could draw investments from the group is solar distributed generation. AES Corp might implement some of those projects in Brazil, following its acquisition of Main Street Power Co. in the United States. (Editing by Guillermo Parra-Bernal, Chizu Nomiyama and W Simon)