Billionaire Batista's cautionary tale in Brazil

June 24, 2013 at 1:27 PM
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RIO DE JANEIRO, June 24 (UPI) -- Investors in Brazil said they are backing away from billionaire Eike Batista's vast empire, which has been failing to match expectations in recent years.

"Batista built his businesses with a whole lot of salesmanship and hype. I feel like I've been burned and won't be touching any more of his ventures," said Jack Deino, a fund manager at Invesco, who sold his entire holdings in Batista's oil company OGX last year, The New York Times reported Monday.

Batista built up a portfolio that had him listed as one of the world's richest men with $34.5 billion to his name.

In one year, his wealth has tumbled. Although he once predicted his fortune would reach $100 billions, his current worth, after peaking in March 2012, is now $4.8 billion, the Times said.

His empire was rooted in commodities, as was Brazil's economy, the Times said.

But Brazil's economy, which was growing at 7.5 percent in 2012, is slowing down sharply While U.S. stock markets have enjoyed a seven-month rally, Brazil's stock market is down 23 percent this year, the most of any large economy.

While Batista took advantage of Brazil's boom, however, none of his six publicly traded companies has made money, the Times said.

"Eike Batista assembled an empire thanks to colossal financing from the Brazilian government. But his explosion of wealth and prominence on the global stage came with risks, as the government itself and investors are discovering now," said economist Carlos Lessa, a former president of Brazil's national development bank.

There are even worries that Batista will be forced to refinance. OSX, an offshore company he controls, was reportedly in default of a $200 million payment. Shares of his coal company CCX have dropped 37 percent after he backed away from a plan to take the company private.

Batista has even put his $26 million private jet up for sale and is seeking a partner in the Hotel Gloria in Rio de Janeiro, which he anticipated would do well as the country hosts the 2014 World Cup in soccer.

Batista revels in the spotlight, once parking a $450,000 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren in his living room, the Times said.

But eventually, investors look for profits to back up the salesmanship.

"He bundled wind and sold it. The euphoria fooled a lot of people," wrote Miriam Leitao, an economic historian and columnist for the newspaper O Globo.

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