The last edition published by The Economist carries an article about Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista. According to the magazine, the “seller of Brazil” made a fortune by betting on the potential of the country in commodities as well as re-building the country’s poor infrastructure. But can he deliver?
Here is an excerpt (via The Economist):
“… Since 2004 he has set up and listed five companies: MPX (energy generation); MMX (mining); LLX (logistics); OGX (oil and gas) and OSX (shipbuilding) … these make up the EBX empire. Few have yet made profits. Some were listed before they were much more than an idea. But selling potential has made Mr Batista Brazil’s richest man and the world’s seventh-richest, with a fortune estimated at $30 billion. That’s more than Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Mr Batista says he will not be satisfied until he has taken the top spot from Carlos Slim, a Mexican telecoms tycoon.
… It was OGX, Mr Batista’s oil-and-gas firm, that propelled him from rich to super-rich. He founded it in 2007, a few months before Brazil’s state-controlled oil giant, Petrobras, announced the discovery of huge offshore pré-sal (“sub-salt”) oil reserves … Its 2008 listing raised $4.3 billion, at the time a record for Brazil.
Mr Batista credits part of his success to his father, who pushed him out of the nest … But he bridles at any suggestion that his father provided any more concrete assistance, such as telling the labrador where to sniff. “Nothing was given free to me,” he says. His mining concessions were bought or claimed on terms that were available to everyone else, and likewise his oilfields. “I bid against Petrobras, Exxon, Shell, all the big boys, and I paid a billion dollars,” he says.
Mr Batista is neither a crony capitalist nor a self-made man, but something in between, says Sergio Lazzarini of Insper, a São Paulo business school. Part of his success is due to his vision and boldness—but he has also mastered the skill of developing and building on connections within government. He points to Mr Batista’s strategic generosity: a wad of cash towards a flattering biopic about the previous president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva…
… A commonly muttered criticism of Mr Batista is that he is too good a salesman to be true… Mr Batista’s detractors dismiss him as the only person besides Bill Gates to have made billions from PowerPoint.
His tendency to go to market soon after developing a concept can certainly misfire…. In March Época Negócios, a Brazilian business monthly, put Mr Batista on its cover, with the caption: “And so, Eike, are you going to deliver?”
Mr Batista says he has already delivered plenty. EBX, he vows, will generate $1 billion in EBITDA this year, increasing to $10 billion by 2015.
Delivering everything he has promised will be tough for Mr Batista, says Mr Blender—but that is the price of fitting together so many pieces of Brazil’s commodity-and-logistics jigsaw puzzle.
Selling his projects, and himself, so hard was a conscious decision, says Mr Batista.
… Mr Batista is paying to clean up Rio’s stinking Rodrigo de Freitas lake, but “Where are the other billionaires? Why don’t they adopt a lake?” Asked what worries him, he first says rising labour costs… “Give me time. Let me work,” he says. He has done enough to convince investors to give him more time. But sooner or later Brazil’s salesman will have to deliver.”