Winner: Pinheiro Neto
Inflation, rising interest rates, currency and broader market volatility have done little to upend
Brazil’s major infrastructure financings over the past year. And despite the challenging market
environment, São Paulo-based Pinheiro Neto Advogados was involved in some of the highest
profile infrastructure transaction to close in Brazil over that period.
The firm, which wins Infrastructure Law Firm of the Year – Brazil, advised the winners of the
mammoth CEDAE sanitation auction in Rio de Janeiro structure the bridge loans that allowed
them to pay the large concession fees. It counselled clients on privatization, including that of
gas company Sulgás and electricity transmission firms CEEE-T and CELG-T. Ongoing and
tricky processes, such as the implementation of Brazil’s 5G network and the planned
privatizations of energy company Eletrobrás and postal giant Correios, have also sought the
advice of Pinheiro Neto’s lawyers.
“Despite the challenge recently faced by the market, such as higher interest rates, high inflation
and some government measures, the infrastructure sector remains hot in the country,” says
partner Ricardo Russo.
Russo sees a significant change in approach by the Brazilian government when it comes to
drawing more private capital into infrastructure projects while reducing state funding,
especially from national development bank BNDES. The bank is instead turning its attention to
structuring projects, while new investors have entered the market thanks to a raft of incentives
and the increasing appeal of assets including infrastructure debentures.
Market experts estimate that Brazil needs investment to the tune of R$300 billion a year to
upgrade its infrastructure, and for that reason Russo expects there will be no shortage of work
for the firm in the sector going forward. Regulatory changes promoted by the government to
modernize concessions and PPPs will also help to maintain this trend. Pinheiro Neto estimates
that 60 concession auctions were completed in 2021, involving R$334 billion in investments
and filling the public purse with R$51 billion in concession fees. They include more than 20
airports, railways, 5G concessions and sanitation projects.
“The main challenges we have faced involve the interpretation and review of rules and contract
clauses in new auctions, which have been modernized by the government to attract a higher
number of investors,” he says. “We have also noted an increase in the involvement of
multilateral lending agencies, for example, in the provision of funding to concessionaries or in
the establishment of guarantees for private sources of funding, as well as a growing deployment
of ESG certifications by long term infrastructure projects.”