(Adds details on debt, quotes from SAE, context)
By Luciano Costa
SAO PAULO, June 7 (Reuters) - Brazilian power generator Santo Antonio Energia (SAE), which manages one of the new hydroelectric dams in the Amazon, said four power distribution firms controlled by state-run Centrais Eletricas Brasileiras SA failed to pay for electricity bought from SAE.
Brazil’s electricity watchdog Aneel confirmed the default late on Monday and said the four distribution firms have been put on a delinquency list, after a request by SAE. They will not be allowed to take part in future power buying rounds until they pay their overdue bills.
The default highlights the financial woes ensnaring state-controlled power holding company Eletrobras. The interim Brazil government has yet to define its line of action regarding the company, which controls 15 subsidiaries and has a 50 percent stake at Itaipu, the world’s second largest hydroelectric dam.
Eletrobras has not posted a profit since 2012. It has almost 40 billion reais in debt and is trying to receive compensation from the government for several actions taken by the former government, including an early renewal of operation licenses that sharply reduced its profit margins.
Eletrobras asks for a compensation of as much as 32 billion reais.
SAE confirmed it asked for Aneel to include the distribution firms in the delinquency list.
“This is a mechanism (the list) that is available to be used by companies in the sector. It works as a way to speed up the regularization (of payments),” said SAE answering to a comment request by Reuters.
Aneel said the four power distributors (Amazons Energia, Cepisa, Ceal and Eletroacre) owe 4.25 billion reais to SAE and other companies in the sector. It did not specify how much of that is owed to SAE.
Eletrobras controls several power distribution companies in Brazil, mainly in the North and Northeast regions. The companies were federalized many years ago and have been money losing businesses for years.
Eletrobras management has asked the government to put up a rescue package for these companies, as a first step on the way to later privatize them.
Ironically, Eletrobras is a partner at SAE. Its subsidiary Furnas Centrais Eletricas holds a 39 percent stake in the project. Other shareholders include engineering group Odebrecht, Centrais Elétricas de Minas Gerais (Cemig), SAAG Investimentos and an investment fund managed by Brazil’s state-controlled lender Caixa Economica Federal. (Reporting by Luciano Costa, writing by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Bernard Orr)