(Adds details of auction, government finances)
BRASILIA, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Brazil’s auction of fourth-generation (4G) cell spectrum on Tuesday raised much less than expected as only three of four major carriers took part, leaving the government without revenue it needs to plug a big budget deficit.
Bids in the auction totaled 5.85 billion reais ($2.39 billion), well below the more than 8 billion reais that officials said they hoped to raise.
Telefonica Brasil SA, TIM Participações SA and the local unit of America Movil SAB de CV won new licenses with bids near the minimum set by regulators. Fourth-place mobile operator Grupo Oi SA said last week it would not participate in the auction.
Stagnant tax revenue due to an economic recession has led to government deficits, pushing Brazil’s budget target out of reach. Investors and credit agencies have questioned the government’s fiscal discipline.
In addition to licensing fees set in the auction, carriers will be responsible for cleaning up parts of the 700 MHz spectrum they won rights to and compensating TV broadcasters that currently use those frequencies.
With no takers for one of the major 4G licenses available, Brazil’s telecommunications regulator Anatel also must refund some of the licensing fees to help cover cleanup costs now shared by three rather than four carriers.
Anatel chief João Rezende said those costs would reduce government revenue from the auction to about 5 billion reais.
Executives for Vivo, TIM and America Movil said they were studying how they would pay for the licensing fees.
$1 = 2.45 Brazilian reais Reporting by Leonardo Goy; Writing by Brad Haynes; Editing by W Simon and David Gregorio