(Dealbook) The Macquarie Group, the Australian investment bank, has raised over R$600m, or US$159m, from Brazilian investors and is nearing a first close for its debut Brazil infrastructure fund, according to a person briefed on the bank’s plans.
The first close is expected to take place by the end of next month, at which time capital commitments will likely surpass 800 million reais, the person said. He spoke on the condition of anonymity. The Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Asset group, or MIRA, which falls within Macquarie Asset Management, a unit of the Macquarie Group, is leading the effort.
It is a time of almost daily dismal economic developments in Brazil, from a shrinking economy and rising inflation to growing worries over unemployment and a possible second downgrade from credit ratings agencies. A battle over whether and how to put fiscal austerity measures into place is fostering uncertainty among investors.
The corruption scandal engulfing the state-owned oil giant Petrobras and the country’s main construction companies also continues to deepen.
For some, however, this presents an opportunity for foreign investors interested in backing infrastructure projects in Brazil, particularly those who previously stayed away.
Their rationale is that the corruption investigation has weakened Brazil’s construction conglomerates and the country now has an even greater need for foreign investors to help finance its underdeveloped infrastructure. Brazil ranked 77th in transport infrastructure in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report for 2015-16.
The government has long sought to lure investors to finance infrastructure. Yet a 2012 government initiative of concessions drew less interest than expected. This June, it announced a new program of concessions, with the goal of drawing 198 billion reais from the private sector. The market took to that more kindly.
Those concessions are expected to include projects to upgrade the country’s airports, highways, and ports, as well as work on an ambitious railroad connecting Brazil’s Atlantic Coast to Peru’s Pacific Coast that the Chinese are also backing.
Once Macquarie’s fund closes, it will most likely bid for some of these concessions.
Late last year, Macquarie Capital, distinct from MIRA but part of the Macquarie Group, formed an investment vehicle with Rio de Janeiro-based Banco Modal and the China Construction Communication Company to invest in infrastructure in Latin America.
Separately Macquarie, through MIRA, is also currently raising a Latin America regional infrastructure fund, hoping to obtain about $500 million, one individual said.
A Macquarie representative declined to comment.