RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The man in charge of Brazilian sugar giant Cosan Ltd. has little interest in talking about the sweetener. These days, he’s all about railways, writes Bloomberg in its latest report. Cosan is controlled by 69-year-old Rubens Ometto, one of the sixty most powerful men in Brazil.
The business that gave life to Cosan — the world’s biggest sugar-cane operation — has been stuck in the doldrums following years of depressed global prices and government policies that curbed the expansion of cane ethanol in Brazil. In stark contrast, the commodity powerhouse is ready to invest “tens of billions” in a plan that will reshape how the nation’s crops get transported, Chief Executive Officer Marcos Lutz said.
“Brazil infrastructure is now the hot story in commodities,” the 49-year-old executive said in an interview with Bloomberg at Cosan’s headquarters in São Paulo.
The South American nation — with its vast swaths of arable land along with abundant water resources and ample sunshine — is already the world’s biggest exporter of agricultural goods from beef to soybeans, and expansion is likely to continue, Lutz said.
That means even more pressure on infrastructure and logistics that have seen chronic problems under the weight of the farm boom. “We see a clear opportunity that derives from a long winter of under-investment,” he said.
Railroad that will Connect Port Terminals in the Northern and Southern Regions.
Cosan has been at the center of Brazil’s push for investments in train transportation. President Jair Bolsonaro’s government is seeking to double the country’s railway capacity through concessions that will demand about R$25 billion (US$6.3 billion) in capital expenditures over the next few years.
Last month, Cosan-owned Rumo SA won a first auction to complete and operate 955 miles (1,537 kilometers) of railroad that will connect port terminals in the northern and southern regions. The railway is planned to be the eventual spine in a network of lines sprawling across key crop-producing states.
Rumo is also in the final stages of a concession renewal process. The terms include more than doubling the annual capacity of the railway known as Malha Paulista, which connects Brazil’s largest port to the nation’s agricultural heartland. Rumo will spend as much as R$ 15 billion in CapEx through 2023, while “several” other investment opportunities are being considered, Lutz said.
“We’re talking about investments of a magnitude that have never been seen in Brazil’s railway sector,” he said.
The bet has won over investors. Rumo’s market value has jumped fourfold since April 2016 to about $7 billion, the most among global peers. The rail operator is now worth more than Cosan SA, the Sao Paulo-listed company that controls the group’s energy businesses, and its bonds trade above par. Both units are under Cosan Ltd., which is listed in New York.