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Sao Paulo state plans to privatize sanitation firm in 2019 - Meirelles

(Adds finance secretary statement, share reaction)

SAO PAULO, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Brazil´s state of Sao Paulo plans to privatize its sanitation company this year, state finance secretary Henrique Meirelles said in a statement, confirming an interview published by newspaper Valor Economico on Wednesday.

Meirelles said the state wants to auction off Companhia de Saneamento Basico do Estado de Sao Paulo, known as Sabesp , though congress still has to approve new regulations allowing the sale.

Meirelles said that if the sanitation regulation bill is not approved during the first half of 2019, the state will take the alternative measure of selling up to 4 billion reais ($1 billion) in new shares.

After rising more than 5 percent in the morning, Sabesp shares were up 1.5 percent, at 41.98 reais, in midafternoon trading in Sao Paulo. Sabesp shares have risen 33 percent this year on hopes of a privatization. ($1 = 3.7894 reais) (Reporting by Tatiana Bautzer Editing by Andrew Heavens and Jonathan Oatis)