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By Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Paula Arend Laier
SAO PAULO, July 26 (Reuters) - Energisa SA priced an offering of new stock near the upper end of a suggested range on Tuesday, signaling an upbeat industry outlook and strong investor demand bolstered plans by Brazil's No. 6 power distributor to cut debt.
According to data obtained from securities industry watchdog CVM, Energisa sold 61.5 million units, and placed 22.52 million units in supplementary and additional allotments at 18.50 reais. Energisa sought to price the units, comprised of one common share and four preferred shares, between 16 reais and 20 reais.
The offering was the first for any Brazilian power firm in three years, underscoring the extent to which the image of a sector long marred by erratic policy moves and a deep recession has changed in recent weeks. Investors placed bids worth almost 8 times the amount of Energisa units on offer, three people familiar with the deal told Reuters earlier in the day.
An index grouping power utilities trading in the São Paulo Stock Exchange has gained 69 percent over the past six months. Robust demand for the Energisa deal could open room for more similar transactions over the coming months, asset managers consulted by Reuters said on Tuesday.
Taking advantage of the newfound interest in the sector, Energisa's controlling Botelho family envisioned the deal as a re-IPO, by which a company boosts trading volume by increasing shares outstanding, the people said. A recent wave of takeovers is fanning hopes that utilities will soon emerge stronger from Brazil's worst recession in eight decades.
Energisa declined to comment, citing a quiet period related to the transaction. The company had hired the investment-banking units of Citigroup Inc, Bank of America Corp, Grupo BTG Pactual SA, Banco Bradesco SA and Banc Santander Brasil SA to advise on the transaction.
Excluding the supplementary and additional allotments, Energisa raised 1.137 billion reais ($348 million) from the deal, according to Thomson Reuters calculations based on the watchdog's data. The company will use proceeds from the offering to cut debt, which totaled 7 billion reais in March.
The offer is the largest for any Brazilian power firm since AES Eletropaulo SA fetched 1.345 billion reais in a so-called primary offering in Sept. 2006. A primary offering usually helps companies attract money that they can only use for their projects.
Energisa's units traded unchanged at 20 reais on Tuesday. The stock has jumped 37 percent over the past three months.
$1 = 3.2683 Brazilian reais Additional reporting by Tatiana Bautzer and Luciano Costa in São Paulo; Editing by Paul Simao and Bernard Orr