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France's Engie to look closely at Brazil Eletrobras assets

By Luciano Costa

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - French energy conglomerate Engie SA (ENGIE.PA) has appetite for more Brazil acquisitions, and will evaluate assets being sold by Eletrobras, despite spending more than $1 billion (755.29 million pounds) in a licensing auction last week, Engie's local unit head told Reuters on Wednesday.

Brazil's state-controlled utility Eletrobras, or Centrais Elétricas Brasileiras SA (ELET5.SA), said on Monday it will soon kick-start its divestiture plan which includes stakes in dozens of projects, mostly wind parks and power transmission ventures.

"We are open to opportunities, but always conservatively and with financial discipline," Mauricio Bahr, Engie Brasil's chief executive, said in an interview in Sao Paulo. "But our debt in Brazil is low so we have some room."

"We would have to look asset by asset," Bahr said, adding transmission lines could be of interest.

Brazil's power sector is going through a process of consolidation, with many local players putting assets up for sale to cut debt as credit is tight. Brazil's government has tried to attract foreign capital to help boost the economy by selling operating licenses for several projects.

Engie spent 3.53 billion reais ($1.13 billion) last week in a government-sponsored auction to win licenses to operate two large hydroelectric power plants in Brazil.

The assets will boost local operations which already contribute 18 percent to the company's global results.

Engie and Eletrobras are partners in several projects, including the massive Jirau hydroelectric dam, a plant built in the middle of the Amazon jungle with capacity to generate 3,750 megawatts.

Eletrobras has hinted it could sell stakes in its large Amazon plants. Besides Jirau, it is a shareholder in Belo Monte and Santo Antonio dams.

"I don't know if they (Eletrobras) will want to sell Jirau, it depends on their appetites. But eventually it will be natural for the partners, who have the right of first refusal, to end up exercising it," Bahr said.

(Writing by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Matthew Lewis)