(Adds comment from Brazil interim president’s chief of staff)
By Alonso Soto
BRASILIA, July 21 (Reuters) - The Brazilian government on Thursday authorized the state of Goias to assume 1.9 billion reais ($583 million) of debt owed by its energy holding company Celg de Participações (Celgpar), paving the way for some of its assets to be privatized.
The National Monetary Council, the country’s highest economic policy body, said in a statement the measure would make Celgpar’s assets more attractive to buyers.
Celgpar and federal government-controlled utility holding company Eletrobras control power distributor Centrais Elétricas de Goiás SA (Celg-D).
U.S. power utility AES Corp, Italy’s Enel SpA and several Brazilian utilities have shown preliminary interest in buying Celg-D, a group organizing the sale and a source briefed on the plan said in February.
Eliseu Padilha, chief of staff for Brazil’s Interim President Michel Temer, said later on Wednesday that executives of Italian utility Enel had visited him and showed interest in purchasing Celg-D.
Finance Ministry economic adviser Viviane Varga said the loans to Celgpar were made by federal government-owned bank Caixa Economica Federal.
Varga added that the debt-transfer measure is limited to a 2014 credit operation with Celgpar and cannot be used to benefit other debt-ridden electricity distributors.
Brazil’s electricity industry is struggling with high debts after years of mismanagement, government-enforced tariff reductions and dry spells that have curbed hydroelectric power output.
Centrais Elétricas Brasileiras SA, as Eletrobras is formally known, Latin America’s largest utility, is considering selling stakes in several distribution companies to raise cash, cut mounting debt and focus on power generation and transmission.
Eletrobras has been in talks with the government to find ways to pay the obligations of heavily indebted distribution subsidiaries in Brazil’s remote and sparsely populated northern Amazon region.
Those distributors include Amazonas Energia in the state of Amazonas, Boa Vista Energia in Roraima, and Ceron in Rondonia.
Earlier in July, Eletrobras and Amazonas Energia paid 433 million reais ($133.8 million) to state-run oil company Petrobras to avoid a cut in its supply of natural gas. ($1 = 3.26 reais) (Reporting by Alonso Soto and Luciano Costa; Editing by W Simon and Richard Chang)