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The (Big) State of Brazilian Journalism

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Pitiful, how the Estado de S. Paulo metro daily has taken to the production of quasi-fake news of late, in the form of topical coverage of conference events produced by the newspaper itself for its various clients and then reported on as if objectively newsworthy.  Continue reading

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Latifúndio | Counting the Beans

Senator Kátia Abréu: "Miss Deforestation"

Senator Kátia Abréu: “Miss Deforestation”

Source:  Brasil de Fato

At least six of the major foreign and domestic groups in the agribusiness, mining and firearms industries invested  R$ 1.395 million in the 2010 election campaigns of nine of the 17 federal deputies who signed  PLP 227.

The bill weakens protections of indigenous rights to ownership of their traditional territories.

Data from the federal elections tribunal (TSE):  See the complete list of campaign donors to the 17 authors of PLP 227.

Dozens of other companies and multinationals involved in grain, pesticides, meatpacking, mining and construction are well represented among the principal donors of the lawmakers who signed PLP 227. As the Parliamentary Agriculture Front denounces the supposedly corrupt interests of native peoples and environmentalists, without ever naming names, the TSE donation figures indicate who should really be questioned about conflicts of interest. Continue reading

Deals on Wheels | The Railway Pipeline

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Source: Portal ClippingMP.
Authorship: Guilherme Soares Dias | Valor Economico

I have recently received an incentive to closely and constantly keep an on the Brazilian transportation sector as a whole — not just what the ALLs and LLXs are up to.

Intercity passenger trains are being readied to circulate again in at least nine Brazilian states with plans under active study. In most of these cases, the intention is to reuse existing freight lines for medium-velocity passenger service. The plans provide for management by private sector concessionaires and ticket prices competitive with intercity buses, in a attempt to take some of the strain off crowded highways.

Brazilian roadways — constantly subject to apocalyptic weather conditions, let it be said — are a nerve-wracking way to get around, although mirabile dictu the rodoviários — bus stations — hum industriously all year long, and especially around Christman, when Northeastern families make the trek to be temporarily reunited.

In all, 1,900 km of so-called “regional trains” will get off the drawing board sometime this year. The federal ministry of transport has detailed plans for six stretches of railway, while SUDECO — the Superintendency of  Center-West Development examines two rail lines in the Brasília region. The state of Minas Gerais is studying three new lines and São Paulo is planning another five.

After a study by BNDES, the national development bank, issued a list of  64 railway lines that could be used to move passengers, the transport ministry chose 14  priority project for evaluation in 2011. Two years later, six of these are underway under the auspices of BNDES and one another, under construction by the state of Minas Gerais, should be ready by the the end 2Q13.

After the studies are conducted, the proposals will be opened up to public discusion, after which the transport ministry intends to assess tender offers for projects starting in 2014. Bids closest to completion so far include the Londrina-Maringá connection, in  Paraná, and the Bento Gonçalves-Caxias do Sul connection, in Rio Grande do Sul, where feasibility studies have been conducted and public audiences will begin next month in which residents and local governments will have their say.

According to Euler Costa Sampaio, coordinator of studies on regional and passenger rail in the transportation ministry, the rail lines will likely operate on the basis of a Public-Private Partnership or a concession model. “We want to take advantage of the new rules for the railway sector, which instituted right of way [for passenger trains] on freight train lines,” he said..

Along certain stretches, such as the connection  Londrina-Maringá, the plan is to create a double-track road, given the heavy cargo loads resulting from the line’s proximity to the Porto of Paranaguá. Studies will show that demand will be sufficient for an all-passenger service, says Sampaio. Estimated demands runs around 36,000 passengers a day and 13 million passengers a year.

Another challenge for the regional lines will be entering urban zones, in places where they might cross paths with municipal transport. “We will have to provide quality and accessibility in order to compete with the interstate bus lines. Fairs will have to be in line with what it costs to travel by bus”, a Transportes official said.

In some cases, such as the Salvador-Alagoinhas connection in Bahia, whose study will be filed in June, indications are that the rail line can be extended another 40 km to Feira de Santana. With its  568,000 inhabitants, the city is the second most populous of Bahia state and is connected to Salvador by Highway BR-324, which sufferes from intense passenger and cargo traffic.

Another stretch of track featured in the  Sampaio reporte is the São Luís-Itapecuru-Mirim triangle, in the northern state of Maranhão, where the largest petrochemical center in the Northeast is under construction.

In addition to the six rail linkages already under study, the transport ministry expects to contract studies for another six: São Cristóvão—Laranjeiras (SE), Recife—Caruaru (PE), Campos—Macaé (RJ), Itajaí— Rio do Sul (SC), Campinas—Araraquara (SP), Santa Cruz—Mangaratiba (RJ), and Bocaiúva—Janaúva (MG).

Os projetos preveem que os trens atinjam de 80 a 140 quilômetros por hora para encurtar, em alguns casos, o tempo de percurso atual. É o caso do trecho entre Brasília e Goiânia que teria viagens de 50 minutos, enquanto as de carro e ônibus duram de duas a três horas. O trecho é estudado pela Sudeco. A linha seria de uso misto, sendo aproveitada para transporte de cargas, com ligação da Ferrovia Norte-Sul em Anápolis (GO), onde está prevista uma parada.

O diretor-superintendente da Sudeco, Marcelo Dourado, ressalta que 6 milhões de pessoas moram no entorno da futura linha e devem ser beneficiadas pelo novo modal de transporte. Ele destaca ainda que haverá melhora no escoamento de produção do agronegócio. A região concentra o segundo Produto Interno Bruto (PIB) meso-regional só perdendo para Rio-São Paulo.

“Essa ligação mais rápida vai incentivar a industrialização e a conurbação da região”, acredita Dourado. Os estudos estão sendo concluídos e a intenção do órgão é que a licitação ocorra até o fim do ano, as obras comecem em 2014 e sejam concluídas em até sete anos. O custo estimado é de R$ 1 bilhão. A Sudeco estuda ainda a ligação entre Brasília-Luiziânia (GO), onde já existe linha férrea e seria necessária adaptação para o trem de passageiros. “Essa seria uma intervenção mais rápida e barata. Seriam necessários dez meses e R$ 90 milhões de desembolsos para viabilizar a linha”, afirma Dourado. O trecho seria atendido por um Veículo Leve sobre Trilho (VLT). De acordo com o superintendente da Sudeco, os dois projetos têm chegada prevista na rodoferroviária da capital federal e devem desafogar as rodovias do Distrito Federal.

O governo federal prevê ainda estudos de um trem ligando as cidades do Triângulo Mineiro e outro mais ousado, da Superintendência do Desenvolvimento do Nordeste (Sudene), que planeja o “Trem da Costa Dourada”, linha de 2 mil quilômetros ligando Salvador ao Delta do Parnaíba (PI) pelo litoral, passando pela maioria das capitais do Nordeste. Apesar do apelo turístico do projeto até mesmo os estudos encontram dificuldade para sair do papel. “O Ministério do Turismo tinha se comprometido a bancar, mas ainda não conseguimos a liberação da verba. Agora estamos negociando com o governo espanhol para financiar os estudos”, diz o superintendente da Sudene, Luiz Gonzaga Paes Landim. Ele garante que o trem é viável e afirma que o projeto poderia ser “fatiado”, com início nos trechos de maior apelo turístico como Salvador -Praia do Forte (BA), Recife-Porto de Galinhas (PE), Natal-Praia da Pipa (RN) e Fortaleza-Canoa Quebrada (CE).

Para o coordenador de transporte de passageiros do Laboratório de Transportes e Logística (LabTrans/UFSC), Rodolfo Philippi, os projetos atuais estudados pelo Ministério dos Transportes terão viabilidade reforçada pelo transporte urbano, uma vez que o aproveitamento de linhas já existentes vai possibilitar estações no centro das cidades. “Em locais maiores como Londrina, Maringá e Caxias do Sul poderá haver mais de uma estação incentivando o locomoção das pessoas dentro das cidades”, diz.

Já o presidente da Associação Brasileira da Indústria Ferroviária (Abifer), Vicente Abate, recorda que nas décadas de 60 e 70 os trens de passageiros chegaram a transportar 100 milhões de passageiros por ano. “Com o desinvestimento do governo na rede, os trens de passageiros foram perdendo competitividade e começaram a ser desativados e foram substituídos pelo transporte de rodovias. Agora devemos ter novo momento de retomada do setor”, considera.

Hoje, apenas duas linhas férreas recebem transporte de passageiros no país: a Estrada de Ferro Carajás, entre São Luís-Carajás (PA), e a Estrada de Ferro Vitória-Minas entre Vitória e Belo Horizonte. Ambas são mantidas em projetos sociais da Vale e movimentam juntas 1,5 milhão de passageiros por ano.

Good fodder for a private Wiki on the subject.

The Ruralist | Potemkin Villager or Hero of Soviet Labor?

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«Chemicals are the true friends of agriculture! They will provide us with centuries of grain!» —Soviet propaganda poster, 1965

I read it in the Folha de S.Paulo and used it to practice the WordFast online and Java editions.

I am surprised not to read more about this issue in the mainstream press. Carnaval is something of a sacred cow, obviously, despite worrisome ties to the underworld.

Columnist, lobbyist and federal Senator — all at once! — Kátia Abreu explains the importance of Vila Isabel’s victory in this year’s Carnaval parades in Rio.

Who is Kátia?

Kátia Abreu is a federal senator (PSD-TO) and leader of the rural benches of the Brazilian congress. She serves as president of the lobbying group CNA, the Confederação da Agricultura e Pecuária do Brasil. She writes a weekly column in the Saturday edition of the  ‘Market’ section.

Recalling the backgroundContinue reading

NGOs of the Amazon | Social Irrigation & the Network Effect

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A vertex is a good hub, if it points to many good authorities,and it is a good authority, if it is pointed to by many good hubs. —WOUTER DE NOOY, ANDREJ MRVAR & VLADIMIR BATAGELJ, Exploratory Social Network Analysis with Pajek

Source: Thiago Foresti | Carta Capital
Translation: C. Brayton
Network Analysis: C. Brayton

You rarely see social network theory applied to journalism for the lay reader, and so I read with interest Thiago Foresti’s recent progress report on the networking strategies — or lack thereof — of environmental nonprofits in the Brazilian Amazon.

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In a nutshell, Thiago’s overview of the complex universe of green NGOs points to an oversupply of “gatekeepers” and a shortage of “hubs.”

I find this interesting: I have my own data from a big Web crawl that allows us to examine the “link ecology” of NGOs enumerated in the article — above, and below.

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This makes me happy, because it means the data collected by extensive Web crawling — crawling 100,000 URLs with WIRE, developed by Chilean researchers  — and network analysis — with Pajek, Gephi and yEd — produce lists of concretely linked URLs whose mutual ties tend to be thematically coherent or empirically verifiable.

Above, for example, GTA is positioned as an itinerant broker between two other organizations. Adjusting the sample size and factoring out social networking platforms could present this relation in a different light, however.

Intuitively, however, it comes as no surprise that the the Observátorio do Clima would reference the Grupo de Trabalho Amazônico, for example. This is what countless Web portals in the “observatory” or “watch” genre do for a living.

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An analysis of a given site’s «link ecology» can provide us with a roster of networked actors engaged in similar activities.

rosterecoongskingkongs Continue reading

Electricity In the Air | A Hard Charging Government Plan Takes Shape

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“It’s reckless to say that there’ll be rationing, but it’s also reckless to say there won’t be,” –Ricardo Correa, Ativa Corretora

Source: Carta Capital.

President Dilma Rousseff has signed the law that extends the concessions of electricity generators and reduced taxes on the sector in order to offer electricity at a reduced cost to the consumer. Under Law 12,783, date January 11, 2013 and published in the Official Diary on January 14, 2013, generation concessions can be renewed one time only, for a period of 30 years, in order to ensure continuity, efficiency and lower prices.

In order to get their concessions renewed, the concession holders must meet the requirements of the federal energy regulator, ANEEL, with respect to rates and quality of service. ANEEL will also oversee the passing on to the end user of investments needed to maintain the quality of service and continuity of operation of the nation’s hydroelectric plants.

Naturally, capital market operators and the government have sparred over the risks and costs of the new regulatory regime.

As Luis Nassif accuses the mainstream media of exaggerating the risk of rationing due to an unusually dry tropical autumn, stock market analysts interviewed by two reporters from O Globo lament the effects of the new policy on the profitability and dividend payout of the affected companies — colorfully described as a «dividend blackout».

The Panic Newsroom

Andre Barrocal of CartaCapital writes:

What President Rousseff could not have imagined is that 2013 would begin with  electricity transformed into a major headache. This happened thanks to the combination of real factors — hydroelectric construction projects behind schedule and very little water in the reservoirs after a dry spell — together with an erroneous reading of the scenario by certain sectors of the mainstream media, who reported that a return to the energy rationing of 2001 was imminent.

Confident that talk of a return to rationing was «ridiculous», Dilma put together a political initiative while on vacation in Bahia — a vacation she decided to interrupt and return to Brasília to supervise directly. Energy regulators and other officials in the area were instructed to offer reassurances to the public and calm the concerns of citizens and the business community. The keystone of this initiative was a press conference held on January 9 with Mining & Energy minister Edison Lobão “There is no risk of an imminent shortfall and I expect there never will be,” he said.

Absolute confidence, however, depend on the summer rains, which were less than generous in late 2012, to the point that reservoirs … were at their lowest level since 2001. ONS, the National Electrical System Operator, which manages the flow of energy throughout Brazil from areas of oversupply to areas of shortfall, was obliged to modify its planning for this eventuality.

Nassif reprises an embarassing moment for Globo and the Folha de S. Paulo, both of which reported that an «emergency» meeting of the technical oversight committee of the E&M ministry had been called. The meeting was routine and went off as scheduled. Globo, Veja, and the FSP were obliged to issue a correction.

Nassif explains:

The electrical energy market is divided into two segments. There are long-term contracts, negotiated between major consumers — including energy distributors — and their suppliers. The other is the so-called spot market, used for short-term transactions.

Incorrect information such as was published by the FSP can cause volatility in the prices fixed by the spot market. It can also cause companies to suspend investments and activate contingency plans.

In this case, the market was not affected because big business and major investors have their own sources of information, and the Internet was effective in defeating the rumor and correctly reporting the MME’s response to reports on the supposedly «extraordinary» nature of the meeting.

As Bloomberg reported recently, this state of affairs is not exactly a zero-sum game.

A dry spell that’s emptying Brazilian hydropower dams is poised to turn Cia. Energetica de Sao Paulo, the second-worst generator stock last year, into one of the industry’s biggest winners.

Cesp, as the utility is known, and other producers that can sell extra electricity in the spot market may be able to profit after prices surged to a record, said JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Banco BTG Pactual SA. Net buyers of energy in the spot market — from billionaire Eike Batista’s MPX Energia SA (MPXE3) to steelmaker Usinas Siderurgicas de Minas Gerais SA — stand to lose the most, analysts said.

Nassif concludes:

Even so, the inaccurate report was used to support the argument that  problems with energy supply were the result of the plan to cut energy bills — a plan that has not even gone into effect yet.

The Corretores

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Writing in O Globo today — «A Dividend Blackout», how clever —  João Sorima Neto &  Eliaria Andrade round up reactions from major brokerages to the impending implementation of price controls partially subsidized by tax breaks.

Analysts predict shortfall in energy sector dividends in the face of government actions and the risks of rationing.

Oliveira, of the Magliano brokerage house: The brokerage has sold off electricity companies in its portfolio.

After taking a beating in the stock market since September, when the government announced measures to reduce the cost of energy to the consumer, share prices continue to suffer well into the New Year.  In the first seven Bovespa sessions of 2013, shares in energy sector companies lost R$ 2.5 billion in market value. In 4Q2012, the same companies lost $34.8 billion in market capitalization.

In this case, the specter of energy rationing was behind the stampede.  Paradoxical is the situation of a sector that has always proven attractive to investors because of the dividends it pays.  In the current scenario, however, dividends will likely suffer, say experts in the field.  The energy investor, these experts say, will have to carefully select companies whose revenues are less affected by the policy.

—  Before 2011, the electric companies paid dividends of 10% to 12%, on average. That number now stands at 6% to 7%. And some companies may forgo paying dividends altogether  — according to William Alves, an analyst at XP Investimentos.

Dividends are the percentage of company profits distributed to shareholders.  They represent extra income not dependent on the market price of shares.

The electric companies have always paid healthy dividends because  they generated large amounts of cash and required few investments.

Required few investments of themselves, perhaps. Many have taken a beating from a newly activist crew of regulators in recent years over quality of service.

Even now, as I type this paragraph, we are under fire from torrential rains likely to have a dual effect: It will help swell reservoirs and it might well produce those marvelous serial explosion of electrical transformers to which we have become accustomed over the years.

Energy-sector companies were also considered a low-risk, defensive investment, with stable share prices even during moments of market volatility. This has changed, as we have seen in recent months.  [The sector’s] stock exchange losses are approaching 50%.

The tumble occurred [in September.] when government action threatened the profitability of these companies, explains Júlio Oliveira, a partner at the Magliano Corretora brokerage house.

In order to reduce electrical bills by 20% starting in February, the federal government rescheduled the renovation of concessions expiring in 2017 or earlier, and ordered generators and transmitters to accept 70% of their current income.  With that, companies that adhere to the new plan will see profits decline.  Energy rationing could also reduce sales and impact profits, although the government denies there is any risk of rationing.

—  Bringing thermoelectric plants online [as a back-up measure]  also concerns the shareholders of the distribution companies.  The cost of production of these plants is much higher, and the sector will have higher costs until rates are readjusted, according to Pedro Galdi, a market strategist at SLW.

The entire sector has suffered in the stock market, but even so, market analysts are not recommending a massive sell-off.  They are closely studying the impact of the regulatory changes on each and every company in the sector and have reached certain conclusions. There is consensus that Eletrobras shares are not a good buy option at the moment.  Some expect that the state-owned company will pay no dividends at all.  The recommendation is for investors in Eletrobras to trade their shares in for other stocks.

— Eletrobras was the first company to adhere to the government reform.  This new reality reduces cash generation, which affects the payment of dividends, says William Alves of XP.

Julio Oliveira, of the Magliano brokerage, believe that if Eletrobras does pay dividends, these will be the minimum demanded by law: 25% of net profits.

CTEEP — the São Paulo energy transmission company —  has already paid out 100% of profits in the form of dividends, but it is highly unlikely to do so again, says Beatriz Nantes, an energy specialist at Empiricus Reserach/Investmania.

According to Nantes, CTEEP’s acceptance of the government plan will affect its earnings. Nantes also does not believe that Eletropaulo will offer satisfying dividends.  CTEEP, though not so heavily affected by the government plan, recently concluded its third cycle of rate readjustments, in which the company’s prices are reevaluated.  The price was cut by 9%, on average.

—  Eletropaulo is no longer a reliable payer of dividends, — Nantes says.

Among those energy-sector stock that may still pay attractive dividends are Tractebel, TAESA and AES Tietê, the analyst says. Nantes believes that these companies were not heavily affected by the government-mandated changes.

The XP brokerage house is recommending Taesa and Tractebel.

Tractebel carries very little debt, which enables it to generate more cash.  The concessions held by Taesa, meanwhile, expire in 2030, which reduces the company’s regulatory risk exposure, says Alves.

Magliano Corretora has removed all energy-sector stocks from its portfolio of recommended investments.

— You should not sit on these stocks for four or five years, especially in view of these changes in the industry.  We have a portfolio of dividend-paying shares that, while not as generous as electricity dividends once were, still present a favorable opportunity cost.

Among these are Ambev, Souza Cruz, Sabesp and Vale. Souza Cruz, for example, will pay 100% of its profits as dividends. This is one option to consider while the profitability of the electric sector remains unclear,  Oliveira says.

Beer, cigarettes, sanitation and nickels. Who can live without them?

«Brazilian Sugarcane Procesors Reopen Talks With Creditors»

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Brazilian sugarcane procesors reopen talks with creditors  — Portal ClippingMP. Original source: Valor Econômico, 10-30-2012. My translation.

Few of the Brazilian sugarcane ethanol plants that filed for bankruptcy at the outset of the crisis in 2008 have been able to comply with the payment plans agreed upon with creditors.

At the present moment, there are 37 Brazilian processing plants in bankruptcy, comprising 11% of the sector as a whole. Sector companies say that margins have been squeezed in the last two years by rising costs and falling sugar and alcohol prices.  The result is that quite a few of these companies are now renegotiating debt amounts and deadlines with their creditors. Continue reading