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UPDATE 2-Brazil raises $600 mln in privatization auction of 22 airports

(Adds comments of CCR CEO, infrastructure minister)

SAO PAULO, April 7 (Reuters) - Brazil on Wednesday auctioned 22 airports, raising 3.3 billion reais ($593.11 million), with the largest group of airports won by infrastructure company CCR , part of a wave of privatizations that the government is pushing.

“We had an extraordinary result in this auction, despite the fact that the COVID pandemic strongly affected all airports”, said Brazil’s Infrastructure Minister Tarcisio de Freitas after the auction ended.

Brazil is auctioning airports as the air travel industry undergoes one of its worst crisis in history. The pandemic brought air travel to a standstill last year and while it has been recovering in developed countries like the United States, flight demand in Brazil has been weakened recently by a brutal second wave.

Brazilian infrastructure company CCR won licenses to operate the two largest blocks of airports, including the airport of the southern city of Curitiba.

The auction raised a similar amount of money as a previous airport auction in 2019, when the auction of a single group of airports in Brazil’s northeast raised $500 million.

Freitas said the government was focusing more on how much winners would invest than in value paid to government.

CCR will operate 15 airports, nine in south Brazil, for which it bid 2.1 billion reais ($382 million), and six in the central region, with a 754 million reais ($135 million) bid.

CCR Chief Executive Marcos Cauduro said the company will bid on the next privatization auctions and that has a 5 billion-real cash position, enough to pay for the licenses acquired on Wednesday.

France’s Vinci Airports agreed to pay 420 million reais ($75.3 million) to operate seven airports in the northern region.

Among the companies that placed losing bids were Spain’s Aena, Argentina’s Corporacion America Airports and funds managed by asset managers Patria Investments and XP Inc.

$1 = 5.5639 reais Reporting by Aluisio Alves and Alberto Alerigi Jr Editing by Marguerita Choy

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