Brisa wants to hike 18 percent stake in Brazil's CCR

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal's leading motorway operator Brisa BRI.LS wants to increase its stake in Brazilian toll road operator CCR CCRO3.SA, in which it currently holds 18 percent, a company director said on Thursday.

Speaking at the Reuters Latin American Investment Summit, Joao Bento said Brisa was keen to take advantage of any opportunity which may arise to boost its holding in CCR.

“Given the strategic importance that CCR has to us, we would view favorably if there was any way to increase our presence,” said Bento, who is in charge of international operations at Brisa.

He added that Brisa’s international strategy is focused on Brazil -- through CCR -- and on the United States through its Northwest Parkway concession in Denver.

CCR is Brazil’s leading toll road operator.

Bento said Brisa was relatively optimistic about the traffic outlook for CCR and on the Brazilian economy in spite of the Latin American country also taking a hit from the global credit crunch.

“After declines in the fourth quarter and with large declines in January and February -- especially in heavy goods traffic -- we are seeing the first turnaround in March,” he said.

He added that he supported CCR’s caution in evaluating projects.

“For us at Brisa like for other CCR shareholders, protecting the dividend is very important,” he said.

He said that CCR’s clear growth priority this year is the concession for the Rodoanel Sul concession in Brazil’s wealthiest, industrial state of Sao Paulo. It already operates Sao Paulo’s western Rodoanel state circular road.

CCR is also planning road investments in another southeastern state of Minas Gerais and two projects for undergrounds in the cities of Belo Horizonte and Brasilia.

CCR is planning total investments of 1 billion reais in 2009.

Writing by Axel Bugge; editing by Andrei Khalip and Simon Jessop