As LLX is sold to a private equity company, will the Açu superport opening be delayed?

Eike Batista, once Brazil’s richest man, is now selling off subsidiaries as profits decline across his businesses. One of the latest subsidiaries to be sold is his logistics company, LLX, which was sold to investment firm Global Energy Partners (EIG) for about $560m.

At the height of its success, Batista’s LLX was developing the Açu superport in Rio de Janeiro state. Açu was expected to become the world’s third largest port – with estimates at over twice the size of Manhattan (New York) – designed to handle 350m metric tons annually and also serve as an export hub for Batista’s oil and commodities subsidiaries. However, the global economy took its toll on Batista’s business and progress slowed. Now that EIG has bought a majority stake in LLX, progress should pick up in the building of the port.

Despite setbacks including labor strikes, the port is expected to open by the end of this year. Açu will consist of two large terminals, TX1 and TX2, with a combined 47 berths and 17 km pier. The port will also have a large industrial complex. Offshore terminal TX1 will handle bulk commodities such as iron ore, oil and gas. Onshore terminal TX2 will handle offshore support equipment, project cargo and steel.

LLX has agreements with companies Anglo American Plc and Batista’s OSX Brasil SA to utilize the port. Other companies that plan to begin projects at the port include General Electric Company and offshore engineering company, Technip SA. MPX plans to build coal and gas-fired power plants at the port and OGX Petroleos e Gas Participações SA is planning oil storage and processing facility.

When plans to build the port were announced several years ago, Brazil was experiencing an export boom which resulted in China becoming its largest trade partner. The need for Açu was great as backlogs at other ports such as Santos were an everyday occurrence. Today, backlogs continue, but mostly because of on-going poor infrastructure such as roads leading to ports. However, China remains the country’s largest trade partner. In fact, for the first half of 2013, exports to China increased 9.0% compared to same period in 2012. Top export commodities were soy beans, iron ore, oil and wood pulp and cellulose.

When it opens, Açu could become a strong competitor to the country’s largest port, Santos. This will prove beneficial for shippers and perhaps provide more competitive rates.