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The Globe and Mail

Brazil's Eike Batista finds $2-billion friend

Billionaire Eike Batista, chairman and chief executive officer of MMX Mineracao e Metalicos SA.

Adriano Machado

Eike Batista may be Brazil's richest man, but he runs a cash-hungry empire. His sprawling EBX Group, which spans oil, mining, rig-building and ports, is still in its infancy. The $2-billion (U.S.) infusion from Abu Dhabi's Mubadala development fund will help buy time for Mr. Batista to make good on his promise.

The billionaire is a fundraising maestro. Instead of shrewdly tapping public markets, as he has done on several occasions, this time he sold an interest in his investment company. The 5.6 per cent share bought by Mubadala values Mr. Batista's personal stake at almost $36-billion – over the $30-billion at which Forbes magazine recently pegged his fortune.

The step may have been necessary. EBX soaks up cash. OGX, Batista's oil and gas explorer, is the jewel with a $29-billion market value. Yet while it has been breaking speed records for taking crude discoveries to production, the firm only pumped its first barrel in January, 2012. Extracting an estimated 10.8-billion barrels of oil won't come cheaply. The firm bled about $400-million of cash last year.

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Petroleum services firm OSX, valued at $2.6-billion, is also still at least a year away from making its first rig. Iron ore miner MMX only has capacity of about 11-million tonnes a year. Rival Vale can produce nearly 30 times as much. And there's also Mr. Batista's gamut of real estate to entertainment ventures to consider.

Mubadala's investment can be allocated at will by Mr. Batista. And the $46-billion fund has deep pockets that may be tapped again if additional financial support is necessary. Its track record of loyalty and patience, including through the downturn, at the likes of General Electric and buyout firm Carlyle Group, will also be comforting to EBX.

Mr. Batista's companies have generally done well since going public. OGX shares are up 32 per cent since its 2008 launch while those of MMX have nearly quadrupled since mid-2006. Like other investors, Mubadala is putting its faith in Mr. Batista to turn his collection into a money-spinner. If he can, this collaboration could be just the start of a beautiful friendship.

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