SAO PAULO, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Cia Energética de Minas Gerais SA, Brazil’s No. 3 power utility, is currently in advanced talks with potential partners with which it would share control of electricity distributor Light SA, Chief Executive Officer Mauro Borges said on Friday.
Several banks that form part of an investment vehicle called Parati SA and shares control of Light with Cemig exercised a put option to exit the partnership. As a result, Cemig has spearheaded talks to find potential investors willing to replace the banks in Parati, Borges told reporters in São Paulo.
“Talks are well advanced ... and we are reaching out to potential partners that not only have financial muscle, but also technology to prop up Light,” he said. “A priori, our interest is to keep a direct and indirect stake in Light of about 33 percent.”
Cemig, hobbled by declining consumption and years of rampant borrowing, is selling assets with weak returns or extra need for capital spending in a bid to cut debt that topped 13 billion reais ($4 billion) in March. Reuters reported in August that Cemig had hired investment banks to manage the sale of small hydropower dams and a gas distribution unit.
Last week, Cemig sold a transmission company in Chile for $56.5 million. The utility is controlled by the mineral-rich state of Minas Gerais - which is facing a serious cash crunch.
Preferred shares of Belo Horizonte, Brazil-based Cemig shed 1.9 percent to 8.39 reais, paring back this year’s gains to 48 percent.
Light fell 2.4 percent to 15.12 reais, also cutting back gains to 60 percent this year.
The put option gives the banks a chance to receive 1 billion reais in the event of their exiting Parati.
Some of the banks that were Cemig’s partners in the Parati vehicle include Grupo BTG Pactual SA, Banco Santander Brasil SA and state-controlled Banco do Brasil SA.
Apart from selling assets, Cemig is also cutting costs to restore profitability, Borges said. If successful, an ongoing ‘cost-cutting program could help the company increase earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, by about 1 billion reais a year, he added.
Cemig’s high operational costs and regulatory burden have taken a toll on the utility’s finances, Borges said. Cemig’s debt rose to the equivalent of 5.26 times EBITDA at the end of June, from 4.39 times in March.
$1 = 3.2710 Brazilian reais Writing by Tatiana Bautzer; Editing by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Chizu Nomiyama