Brazil govt keen to work with Keppel, Sembcorp on challenges

The Brazilian government is looking to start discussions with Singapore's Keppel Corp and Sembcorp Marine. PHOTO: SEMBCORP MARINE

The Brazilian government is looking to start discussions with Singapore's Keppel Corp and Sembcorp Marine to find a solution to challenges they face there, a visiting Brazilian official said yesterday.

Both firms have been linked to a corruption scandal involving state-owned oil giant Petrobras. Their key customer Sete Brasil, whose only client is Petrobras, has filed for bankruptcy protection.

"The discussions have been held by the companies themselves so far," Dr Marcio Felix, who is secretary for oil and natural gas at Brazil's mines and energy ministry, told The Straits Times in a phone interview yesterday.

"We in the ministry will be open to starting a real dialogue with them, so we can try to understand the problem and look at how we can work together to find a possible solution," he said.

"We don't have a solution today, but we want to work towards retaining this long-term relationship with the two companies," he noted, adding that their "impressive track record" is a boon for Brazil's oil and gas sector, an important part of its economy.

Dr Felix arrived here on Thursday as part of a delegation with Mr Paulo Hartung, the governor of Brazil's Espirito Santo state.

Mr Hartung, who is in Singapore to meet government agencies and potential investors, said Brazil is taking steps to set itself on a path to sound economic development, spelling better business conditions for foreign firms there.

"We underwent a difficult and traumatic political moment, but that has been overcome with the decision made two days ago," he said yesterday, referring to the impeachment of now-former president Dilma Rousseff.

Market indicators so far, he added, have been positive, pointing to a greater sense of confidence in the future of the economy.

He noted that Espirito Santo's infrastructure sector - which includes port facilities, highways, railways, water treatment, power generation and urban solutions - is a key area of opportunity for Singapore firms, especially as Brazil embarks on its most ambitious privatisation drive in two decades.

The state is also seeking investments from agri-business and education services sectors here.

Brazilian Ambassador to Singapore Flavio Soares Damico said his government estimates that the country's economic growth could hit up to 2 per cent next year. Espirito Santo is expected to outperform the nation as a whole.

Singapore's bilateral investments with Brazil came to $1.04 billion in 2014, said IE Singapore.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2016, with the headline Brazil govt keen to work with Keppel, Sembcorp on challenges. Subscribe