In addition to Boeing and Embraer, corporate giants from Eletrobras to Petrobras to LyondellBasell all have their deals stuck on hold until Brazilians vote in October and clear up prospects for markets and the economy.
A $4.8 billion joint venture between Boeing and Embraer is either a threat to Brazil’s national security, the surrender of a national treasure or a boon that would strengthen both companies. It depends which presidential candidate you ask.
Brazil’s October elections will decide more than just who leads the biggest economy in Latin America. At least $33 billion of mergers, acquisitions, and stock and bond sales hang in the balance as well, according to a tally compiled by Bloomberg. In addition to Boeing and Embraer, corporate giants from Eletrobras to Petrobras to LyondellBasell all have their deals stuck on hold until voters weigh in and clear up prospects for markets and the economy.
“The exchange-rate volatility, economic uncertainty and the difficulty in seeing a clear exit horizon — all that influences deal timings,” said Roderick Greenlees, who heads investment banking at Banco Itau BBA. “Activity should pick up after the elections as the market stabilizes.”
Brazil’s currency has lost 10 percent since Aug. 3 as election polls showed a surge in support for former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, whose campaign called the Boeing-Embraer deal “illegitimate” and promised to block it using the government’s veto power at Embraer. Lula, who’s running even though he’s in jail fighting corruption charges, opposes reforms that bankers consider key to improve fiscal accounts. He’s expected to be barred from running, but there are signs he may be able to lift his running mate, Fernando Haddad, into the second round of voting on Oct. 28.
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On the other end of the political spectrum, market-favorite candidate Geraldo Alckmin has said the plane makers’ joint venture is a positive for the companies and for Brazil. Alckmin hasn’t gained much traction in the polls, coming in consistently at No. 4 or No. 5.
“The elections are completely undefined — there’s no clear trend at the moment — and it’ll be difficult for people to make a strategic long-term investment or divestment decisions with little predictability,” said Eduardo Mendez, co-head of Latin America equities at Morgan Stanley.
The candidates’ positions on tax policy will affect deals as well, according to Fernanda Ortiz, associate partner at Banco BTG Pactual. Taxing company dividends — an idea many presidential candidates are backing — could mean lower returns for investors, Ortiz said.
“A big chunk of deals depends on the willingness of the government, from the regulatory point of view or from the seller’s point of view, and that’s getting more difficult as the election approaches,” said Thiago Sandim, a partner at the Brazil law firm Demarest.
“The M&A market is getting choked,” Sandim said, adding that the political instability is also creating fertile soil for the nation’s courts to interfere with asset sales.
Petrobras’ divestment program was blocked by Supreme Court Judge Ricardo Lewandowski, who ruled in July that any government-owned company sale, including subsidiaries, must be approved by the Congress.
The ruling forced postponements for deals such as the selling of a gas-pipeline unit in northeastern Brazil, a transaction that could reach $8 billion.
Eletrobras, the state-owned power company, was trying to sell six distribution units and after many court battles is now auctioning three, while another sale might come Sept. 26.
“There are fewer deals, and the ones that are going through are taking longer to close,” said Joao Ricardo de Azevedo Ribeiro, senior partner at São Paulo-based law firm Mattos Filho.
The $33 billion in transactions stuck in limbo doesn’t include auctions to sell 12 airports, four railroads and six roads the government has already conceded will be postponed until next year.
“With all those deals dammed up, we may see a torrent of transactions after the elections,” said Pedro Whitaker de Souza Dias, a partner at Mattos Filho.