* Mantega says gov't will "somehow" push energy prices down
* Energy firms seek privileges, shares will recover, he says
* Rousseff's plan key to keep inflation in check in 2013
RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 14 Brazil's Finance Minister
Guido Mantega vowed electricity rates will fall next year even
if power companies resist a government plan to cut energy costs
to consumer and business users.
In an interview published Wednesday in the Valor Economico
daily, Mantega said Brazil "cannot wait until 2015 or 2016" to
cut electricity prices, a move he considers essential to boost
the competitiveness of the country's industry.
President Dilma Rousseff in September asked power companies
to slash their rates by an average 20 percent or risk the loss
of their operating licenses, or concessions, when they expire in
The companies have the right not to renew their concessions
right now, keeping their current energy tariffs. In that case,
Mantega said, the government will "somehow" make sure energy
prices will fall next year. He said the Treasury could be
involved in such an action, but provided no specifics.
Rousseff's plan has knocked down shares of power utilities
and greatly upset energy investors, some of them have accused
the government of trying to break their concession contracts.
Large energy companies such as Cemig, Cteep
, and Cesp have threatened or already
decided not to renew their concessions.
Lower energy prices are crucial to ensure inflation remains
in check next year, making room for the central bank to keep its
benchmark interest rate at an all-time low for longer.
The central bank has estimated that lower electricity costs
next year could trim about half a percentage point off
inflation, which is running at 5.45 percent in the 12-month
period to October. That is well above the center of the
government's target of 4.5 percent, plus or minus 2 percentage
Mantega said that, by refusing to adhere to the government
plan, some firms are trying to keep their "privileges," forcing
the population to pay unfairly high energy prices.
He said the recent plunge in energy share prices is a
"market problem," probably caused by fund managers who
"misguided" their clients.
"I'm sure share prices will recover. Right now, they're
pricing in this (plan). Soon, what will matter is the company's
efficiency, its EBITDA, its expansion outlook," Mantega said.