(Adds background on Brazil recession in paragraph 6-7)
By Guillermo Parra-Bernal
SAO PAULO, March 15 (Reuters) - FleetCor Technologies Inc agreed on Tuesday to buy Brazil's largest electronic toll payments firm for 4.086 billion reais ($1.1 billion), underscoring the growing allure of Latin America's biggest fleet management market in spite of a steep recession.
In a statement, Norcross, Georgia-based FleetCor said it acquired Serviços e Tecnologia de Pagamentos SA from a group of partners including rival toll road operators CCR SA and Arteris SA, energy and logistics conglomerate Raizen Combustiveis SA and others.
Serviços, which operates under the brand Sem Parar in Latin America's largest country, has more than 4.5 million users and processes over 10 billion reais in toll, parking and fuel payments annually. Local media had recently linked FleetCor to potential acquisitions in Brazil, where the number of active fleet management systems is predicted to double by 2018.
Consolidation is gaining steam in Brazil's fleet management industry since 2014, when France's Groupe Michelin acquired Sascar Participações SA on a bet that car insurers, logistics firms and security risk managers would boost demand for monitoring services. France's Edenred SA paid 790 million reais in January for a 65 percent stake in fuel card, maintenance and freight operator Embratec.
"The acquisition will result in substantial synergies as we implement our operating disciplines and consolidate with our other Brazil lines of business," FleetCor Chief Executive Officer Ron Clarke was quoted by the statement as saying.
Even as Brazil braces for the longest and deepest recession since 1901, the search for growth among large global fleet management players is expected to continue, bankers have said.
Giant industry players in the United States and Europe are looking to grow in emerging markets, because their business remains oversaturated in their home turfs. Countries of large size and greater reliance on road transport, such as Brazil, will continue to lure investment from those firms, analysts have said.
FleetCor plans to fund the acquisition using cash and borrowings, the statement added. The transaction, which is pending regulatory and shareholder approval, is expected to be concluded in the third quarter, FleetCor added.
Executives at FleetCor will discuss the transaction at a conference call later in the day.
$1 = 3.6599 Brazilian reais Additional reporting by Silvio Cascione in Brasilia; Editing by W Simon