Brazil still plans to privatize state utility Eletrobras, sources say

BRASILIA/SAO PAULO, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Brazil’s government still plans to privatize state-run electricity company Eletrobras, two sources said on Thursday, despite the high-profile departure of its chief executive who said he did not see the political will required to sell the asset.

Wilson Ferreira Jr. resigned on Monday as CEO of Centrais Eletricas Brasileiras, as Eletrobras is formally known, to take the helm of recently-privatized fuel distributor Petrobras Distribuidora SA.

His departure battered Eletrobras’ share price and raised questions about President Jair Bolsonaro’s goal to sell off billions of dollars of state assets.

However, despite Ferreira Jr’s exit, two sources told Reuters that the government remains committed to the Eletrobras sale.

One of them said that the government plans to move ahead with seeking the legislative approvals required to take the company private after the election of new congressional leadership next week.

“About the bill, you will have to wait for next week, for the elections. Now it’s no use (negotiating),” said one of the sources with knowledge of the plan.

Another source said that the government is looking at a new bill to send to Congress.

“They are working on the text of the bill that is in Congress,” said the second source.

On Wednesday night, CNN Brasil reported that officials were looking at the possibility of an executive action, which would include the company in the National Privatization Program (PND).

However, the sources shot that idea down. The second source said that efforts are currently focused on the bill. “This is the current scenario.”

The economy ministry declined to comment, while the ministry of mines and energy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Eletrobras shares were trading 2.6% higher on Thursday afternoon. (Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu and Luciano Costa Editing by Marguerita Choy)