1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
Brazil was the world’s fourth largest destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in 2017, with inflows of USD 62.7 billion, according to UNCTAD. The GoB actively encourages FDI – particularly in the automobile, renewable energy, life sciences, oil and gas, and transportation infrastructure sectors – to introduce greater innovation into Brazil’s economy and to generate economic growth. GoB investment incentives include tax exemptions and low-cost financing with no distinction made between domestic and foreign investors. Foreign investment is restricted in the health, mass media, telecommunications, aerospace, rural property, maritime, insurance, and air transport sectors.
The Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (APEX) plays a leading role in attracting FDI to Brazil by working to identify business opportunities, promoting strategic events, and lending support to foreign investors willing to allocate resources to Brazil. APEX is not a one-stop-shop for foreign investors, but the agency can assist in all steps of the investor’s decision-making process, to include identifying and contacting potential industry segments, sector and market analyses, and general guidelines on legal and fiscal issues. Their services are free of charge. The website for APEX is: .
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
A 1995 constitutional amendment (EC 6/1995) eliminated distinctions between foreign and local capital, ending favorable treatment (e.g. tax incentives, preference for winning bids) for companies using only local capital. However, constitutional law restricts foreign investment in the healthcare (Law 13097/2015), mass media (Law 10610/2002), telecommunications (Law 12485/2011), aerospace (Law 7565/1986 a, Decree 6834/2009, updated by Law 12970/2014, Law 13133/2015, and Law 13319/2016), rural property (Law 5709/1971), maritime (Law 9432/1997, Decree 2256/1997), insurance (Law 11371/2006), and air transport sectors (Law 13319/2016).
Screening of FDI
Foreigners investing in Brazil must electronically register their investment with the BCB within 30 days of the inflow of resources to Brazil. In cases of investments involving royalties and technology transfer, investors must register with Brazil’s patent office, the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI). Investors must also have a local representative in Brazil. Portfolio investors must have a Brazilian financial administrator and register with the Brazilian Securities Exchange Commission (CVM).
To enter Brazil’s insurance and reinsurance market, U.S. companies must establish a subsidiary, enter into a joint venture, acquire a local firm, or enter into a partnership with a local company. The BCB reviews banking license applications on a case-by-case basis. Foreign interests own or control 20 of the top 50 banks in Brazil. Santander is the only major wholly foreign-owned retail bank remaining in Brazil. Brazil’s anti-trust authorities (CADE) approved Itau bank’s purchase of Citibank’s Brazilian retail banking operation in August 2017. In June 2016, CADE approved Bradesco bank’s purchase of HSBC’s Brazilian retail banking operation.
Currently, foreign ownership of airlines is limited to 20 percent. Congressman Carlos Cadoca (PCdoB-PE) presented a bill to Brazilian Congress in August of 2015 to allow for 100 percent foreign ownership of Brazilian airlines (PL 2724/2015). The bill was approved by the lower house, and since March 2019, it is pending a Senate vote. In 2011, the United States and Brazil signed an Air Transport Agreement as a step towards an Open Skies relationship that would eliminate numerical limits on passenger and cargo flights between the two countries. Brazil’s lower house approved the agreement in December 2017, and the Senate ratified it in March 2018. The Open Skies agreement has now entered into force.
In July 2015, under National Council on Private Insurance (CNSP) Resolution 325, the Brazilian government announced a significant relaxation of some restrictions on foreign insurers’ participation in the Brazilian market, and in December 2017, the government eliminated restrictions on risk transfer operations involving companies under the same financial group. The new rules revoked the requirement to purchase a minimum percentage of reinsurance and eliminated a limitation or threshold for intra-group cession of reinsurance to companies headquartered abroad that are part of the same economic group. Rules on preferential offers to local reinsurers, which are set to decrease in increments from 40 percent in 2016 to 15 percent in 2020, remain unchanged. Foreign reinsurance firms must have a representation office in Brazil to qualify as an admitted reinsurer. Insurance and reinsurance companies must maintain an active registration with Brazil’s insurance regulator, the Superintendence of Private Insurance (SUSEP) and maintaining a minimum solvency classification issued by a risk classification agency equal to Standard & Poor’s or Fitch ratings of at least BBB-.
In September 2011, Law 12485/2011 removed a 49 percent limit on foreign ownership of cable TV companies, and allowed telecom companies to offer television packages with their service. Content quotas require every channel to air at least three and a half hours per week of Brazilian programming during primetime. Additionally, one-third of all channels included in any TV package have to be Brazilian.
The National Land Reform and Settlement Institute administers the purchase and lease of Brazilian agricultural land by foreigners. Under the applicable rules, the area of agricultural land bought or leased by foreigners cannot account for more than 25 percent of the overall land area in a given municipal district. Additionally, no more than 10 percent of agricultural land in any given municipal district may be owned or leased by foreign nationals from the same country. The law also states that prior consent is needed for purchase of land in areas considered indispensable to national security and for land along the border. The rules also make it necessary to obtain congressional approval before large plots of agricultural land can be purchased by foreign nationals, foreign companies, or Brazilian companies with majority foreign shareholding. Draft Law 4059/2012, which would lift the limits on foreign ownership of agricultural land,
has been awaiting a vote in the Brazilian Congress since 2015.
Brazil is not a signatory to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA), but became an observer in October 2017. By statute, a Brazilian state enterprise may subcontract services to a foreign firm only if domestic expertise is unavailable. Additionally, U.S. and other foreign firms may only bid to provide technical services when there are no qualified Brazilian firms. U.S. companies need to enter into partnerships with local firms or have operations in Brazil in order to be eligible for “margins of preference” offered to domestic firms to participate in Brazil’s public sector procurement to help these firms win government tenders. Foreign companies are often successful in obtaining subcontracting opportunities with large Brazilian firms that win government contracts. Under trade bloc Mercosul’s Government Procurement Protocol, member nations Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay are entitled to non-discriminatory treatment of government-procured goods, services, and public works originating from each other’s suppliers and providers. However, only Argentina has ratified the protocol, and per the Brazilian Ministry of Economy website, this protocol has been in revision since 2010, so it has not yet entered into force.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) 2018 Brazil Economic Survey of Brazil highlights Brazil as a leading global economy. However, it notes that high commodity prices and labor force growth will no longer be able to sustain Brazil’s economic growth without deep structural reforms. While praising the Temer government for its reform plans, the OECD urged Brazil to pass all needed reforms to realize their full benefit. The OECD cautions about low investment rates in Brazil, and cites a World Economic Forum survey that ranks Brazil 116 out of 138 countries on infrastructure as an area in which Brazil must improve to maintain competitiveness.
The OECD’s March 15, 2019 Enlarged Investment Committee Report BRAZIL: Position Under the OECD Codes of Liberalisation of Capital Movements and of Current Invisible Operations noted several areas in which Brazil needs to improve. These observations include, but are not limited to: restrictions to FDI requiring investors to incorporate or acquire residency in order to invest; lack of generalized screening or approval mechanisms for new investments in Brazil; sectoral restrictions on foreign ownership in media, private security and surveillance, air transport, mining, telecommunication services; and, restrictions for non-residents to own Brazilian flag vessels. The report did highlight several areas of improvement and the GoB’s pledge to ameliorate several ongoing irritants as well.
The IMF’s 2018 Country Report No. 18/253 on Brazil highlights that a mild recovery supported by accommodative monetary and fiscal policies is currently underway. But the economy is underperforming relative to its potential, public debt is high and increasing, and, more importantly, medium-term growth prospects remain uninspiring, absent further reforms. The IMF advises that against the backdrop of tightening global financial conditions, placing Brazil on a path of strong, balanced, and durable growth requires a committed pursuit of fiscal consolidation, ambitious structural reforms, and a strengthening of the financial sector architecture. The WTO’s 2017 Trade Policy Review of Brazil notes the country’s open stance towards foreign investment, but also points to the many sector-specific limitations (see above). All three reports highlight the uncertainty regarding reform plans as the most significant political risk to the economy. These reports are located at the following links:
A company must register with the National Revenue Service (Receita) to obtain a business license and be placed on the National Registry of Legal Entities (CNPJ). Brazil’s Export Promotion and Investment Agency (APEX) has a mandate to facilitate foreign investment. The agency’s services are available to all investors, foreign and domestic. Foreign companies interested in investing in Brazil have access to many benefits and tax incentives granted by the Brazilian government at the municipal, state, and federal levels. Most incentives target specific sectors, amounts invested, and job generation. Brazil’s business registration website can be found at .
Brazil does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad, and APEX-Brasil supports Brazilian companies’ efforts to invest abroad under its “internationalization program”: . Apex-Brasil frequently highlights the United States as an excellent destination for outbound investment. Apex-Brasil and SelectUSA (the U.S. government’s investment promotion office at the U.S. Department of Commerce) signed a memorandum of cooperation to promote bilateral investment in February 2014.
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The Central Bank of Brazil (BCB) embarked in October 2016 on a sustained monetary easing cycle, lowering the Special Settlement and Custody System (Selic) baseline reference rate from a high of 14 percent in October 2016 to 6.5 percent in December 2018. Inflation for 2018 was 3.67 percent, within the 1.5 percent plus/minus of the 4 percent target. In June 2018, the National Monetary Council (CMN) set the BCB’s inflation target to 4.25 percent in 2019, 4.5 percent in 2020, and 3.75 percent for 2021. Because of a heavy public debt burden and other structural factors, most analysts expect the “neutral” policy rate will remain higher than target rates in Brazil’s emerging-market peers (around five percent) over the forecast period.
After a boom in 2004-2012 that more than doubled the lending/GDP ratio (to 55 percent of GDP), the recession and higher interest rates significantly decreased lending. In fact, the lending/GDP ratio remained below 55 percent at year-end 2017. Financial analysts contend that credit will pick up again in the medium term, owing to interest rate easing and economic recovery.
The role of the state in credit markets grew steadily beginning in 2008, with public banks now accounting for over 55 percent of total loans to the private sector (up from 35 percent). Directed lending (that is, to meet mandated sectoral targets) also rose and accounts for almost half of total lending. Brazil is paring back public bank lending and trying to expand a market for long-term private capital.
While local private sector banks are beginning to offer longer credit terms, state-owned development bank BNDES is a traditional Brazilian source of long-term credit. BNDES also offers export financing. Approvals of new financing by BNDES increased 27 percent year-over-year, with the infrastructure sector receiving the majority of new capital.
The Sao Paulo Stock Exchange (BOVESPA) is the sole stock market in Brazil, while trading of public securities takes place at the Rio de Janeiro market. In 2008, the Brazilian Mercantile & Futures Exchange (BM&F) merged with the BOVESPA to form what is now the fourth largest exchange in the Western Hemisphere, after the NYSE, NASDAQ, and Canadian TSX Group exchanges. As of April 2019, there were 430 companies traded on the BM&F/BOVESPA. The BOVESPA index increased 15.03 percent in valuation during 2018. Foreign investors, both institutions and individuals, can directly invest in equities, securities, and derivatives. Foreign investors are limited to trading derivatives and stocks of publicly held companies on established markets.
Wholly owned subsidiaries of multinational accounting firms, including the major U.S. firms, are present in Brazil. Auditors are personally liable for the accuracy of accounting statements prepared for banks.
Money and Banking System
The Brazilian financial sector is large and sophisticated. Banks lend at market rates that remain relatively high compared to other emerging economies. Reasons cited by industry observers include high taxation, repayment risk, and concern over inconsistent judicial enforcement of contracts, high mandatory reserve requirements, and administrative overhead, as well as persistently high real (net of inflation) interest rates. According to BCB data collected from 2011 through the first quarter of 2019, the average rate offered by Brazilian banks was 9.22 percent, with an average monthly high of 11.34 percent in July 2016, and an average monthly rate of 7.7 percent for March 2019.
The financial sector is concentrated, with BCB data indicating that the four largest commercial banks (excluding brokerages) account for approximately 70 percent of the commercial banking sector assets, totaling USD 1.59 trillion as of Q1, 2019. Three of the five largest banks (by assets) in the country – Banco do Brasil, Caixa Economica Federal, and BNDES – are partially or completely federally owned. Large private banking institutions focus their lending on Brazil’s largest firms, while small- and medium-sized banks primarily serve small- and medium-sized companies. Citibank sold its consumer business to Itau Bank in 2016, but maintains its commercial banking interests in Brazil. It is currently the sole U.S. bank operating in the country.
In recent years, the BCB has strengthened bank audits, implemented more stringent internal control requirements, and tightened capital adequacy rules to reflect risk more accurately. It also established loan classification and provisioning requirements. These measures apply to private and publicly owned banks alike. In April 2018, Moody’s upgraded a collection of 20 Brazilian banks and their affiliates to stable from negative. The Brazilian Securities and Exchange Commission (CVM) independently regulates the stock exchanges, brokers, distributors, pension funds, mutual funds, and leasing companies with penalties against insider trading.
Foreigners may find it difficult to open an account with a Brazilian bank. The individual must present a permanent or temporary resident visa, a national tax identification number issued by the Brazilian government (CPF), either a valid passport or identity card for foreigners (CIE), proof of domicile, and proof of income. On average, this process from application to account opening lasts more than three months
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
Brazil’s foreign exchange market remains small, despite recent growth. The latest Triennial Survey by the Bank for International Settlements, conducted in December 2016, showed that the net daily turnover on Brazil’s market for OTC foreign exchange transactions (spot transactions, outright forwards, foreign-exchange swaps, currency swaps and currency options) was USD 19.7 billion, up from USD 17.2 billion in 2013. This was equivalent to around 0.3 percent of the global market in both years.
Brazil’s banking system has adequate capitalization and has traditionally been highly profitable, reflecting high interest rates and fees. Per an April 2018 Central Bank Financial Stability Report, all banks exceeded required solvency ratios, and stress testing demonstrated the banking system has adequate loss absorption capacity in all simulated scenarios. Furthermore, the report noted 99.9 percent of banks already met Basel III requirements, and possess a projected Common Equity Tier 1 (CET1) capital ratio above the minimum 7 percent required at the beginning of 2019.
There are few restrictions on converting or transferring funds associated with a foreign investment in Brazil. Foreign investors may freely convert Brazilian currency in the unified foreign exchange market where buy-sell rates are determined by market forces. All foreign exchange transactions, including identifying data, must be reported to the BCB. Foreign exchange transactions on the current account are fully liberalized.
The BCB must approve all incoming foreign loans. In most cases, loans are automatically approved unless loan costs are determined to be “incompatible with normal market conditions and practices.” In such cases, the BCB may request additional information regarding the transaction. Loans obtained abroad do not require advance approval by the BCB, provided the Brazilian recipient is not a government entity. Loans to government entities require prior approval from the Brazilian Senate as well as from the Economic Ministry’s Treasury Secretariat, and must be registered with the BCB.
Interest and amortization payments specified in a loan contract can be made without additional approval from the BCB. Early payments can also be made without additional approvals, if the contract includes a provision for them. Otherwise, early payment requires notification to the BCB to ensure accurate records of Brazil’s stock of debt.
In March 2014, Brazil’s Federal Revenue Service consolidated the regulations on withholding taxes (IRRF) applicable to earnings and capital gains realized by individuals and legal entities resident or domiciled outside Brazil. The regulation states that the cost of acquisition must be calculated in Brazilian currency (reais). Also, the definition of “technical services” was broadened to include administrative support and consulting services rendered by individuals (employees or not) or resulting from automated structures having clear technological content.
Upon registering investments with the BCB, foreign investors are able to remit dividends, capital (including capital gains), and, if applicable, royalties. Investors must register remittances with the BCB. Dividends cannot exceed corporate profits. Investors may carry out remittance transactions at any bank by documenting the source of the transaction (evidence of profit or sale of assets) and showing payment of applicable taxes.
Under Law 13259/2016 passed in March 2016, capital gain remittances are subject to a 15 to 22.5 percent income withholding tax, with the exception of capital gains and interest payments on tax-exempt domestically issued Brazilian bonds. The capital gains marginal tax rates are: 15 percent up to USD 1.5 million in gains; 17.5 percent for USD 1.5 million to USD 2.9 million in gains; 20 percent for USD 2.9 million to USD 8.9 million in gains; and 22.5 percent for more than USD 8.9 million in gains.
Repatriation of a foreign investor’s initial investment is also exempt from income tax under Law 4131/1962. Lease payments are assessed a 15 percent withholding tax. Remittances related to technology transfers are not subject to the tax on credit, foreign exchange, and insurance, although they are subject to a 15 percent withholding tax and an extra 10 percent Contribution for Intervening in Economic Domain (CIDE) tax.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
Law 11887 established the Sovereign Fund of Brazil (FSB) in 2008. It was a non-commodity fund with a mandate to support national companies in their export activities and to offset counter-cyclical development, promoting investment in projects of strategic interest to Brazil both domestically and abroad. The GoB also had the authority to use money from this fund to help meet its fiscal targets when annual revenues were lower than expected, and to invest in state-owned companies. In May 2018, then-President Temer signed an executive order abolishing the fund. The money in the fund was earmarked for repayment of foreign debt.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
The GoB maintains ownership interests in a variety of enterprises at both the federal and state levels. Typically, boards responsible for state-owned enterprise (SOE) corporate governance are comprised of directors elected by the state or federal government with additional directors elected by any non-government shareholders. Although Brazil, a non-OECD member, has participated in many OECD working groups, it does not follow the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of SOEs. Brazilian SOEs are concentrated in the oil and gas, electricity generation and distribution, transportation, and banking sectors. A number of these firms also see a portion of their shares publically traded on the Brazilian and other stock exchanges.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, the GoB privatized many state-owned enterprises across a broad spectrum of industries, including mining, steel, aeronautics, banking, and electricity generation and distribution. While the GoB divested itself from many of its SOEs, it maintained partial control (at both the federal and state level) of some previously wholly state-owned enterprises. This control can include a “golden share” whereby the government can exercise veto power over proposed mergers or acquisitions.
Notable examples of majority government owned and controlled firms include national oil and gas giant Petrobras and power conglomerate Eletrobras. Both Petrobras and Eletrobras include non-government shareholders, are listed on both the Brazilian and NYSE stock exchanges, and are subject to the same accounting and audit regulations as all publicly-traded Brazilian companies. Brazil previously restricted foreign investment in offshore oil and gas development through 2010 legislation that obligated Petrobras to serve as the sole operator and minimum 30 percent investor in any oil and gas exploration and production in Brazil’s prolific offshore pre-salt fields. As a result of the GoB’s desire to increase foreign investment in Brazil’s hydrocarbon sector, in October 2016 the Brazilian Congress granted foreign companies the right to serve as sole operators in pre-salt exploration and production activities and eliminated Petrobras’ obligation to serve as a minority equity holder in pre-salt oil and gas operations. Nevertheless, the 2016 law still gives Petrobras right-of-first refusal in developing pre-salt offshore fields before those areas are available for public auction. Industry estimates project bonuses of USD 26.3 billion by opening the Brazilian oil and gas market to foreign investment.
Given limited public investment funding, the GoB has focused on privatizing state–owned energy, airport, road, railway, and port assets through long-term (up to 30 year) infrastructure concession agreements. Eletrobras successfully sold its six principal, highly-indebted power distributors. The SOE is currently working to begin a capitalization process to reduce the GoB’s share holdings in the company to less than 50 percent. The process cannot move forward, however, until Congress passes a bill authorizing the reduction. In 2018, Petrobras faced criticism over its daily fuel adjustment policy and a major 12-day truckers strike hit Brazil and forced the resignation of Petrobras’ CEO Pedro Parente. To end the strike, the GoB eliminated the collection of the CIDE tax over diesel and gave a USD 3 billion subsidy to diesel producers (mainly Petrobras) to reduce the prices to consumers (primarily truckers).
In 2016, Brazil launched its newest version of these efforts to promote privatization of primary infrastructure. The Temer administration created the Investment Partnership Program (PPI) to expand and accelerate the concession of public works projects to private enterprise and the privatization of some state entities. PPI covers federal concessions in road, rail, ports, airports, municipal water treatment, electricity transmission and distribution, and oil and gas exploration and production contracts. Between 2016 and 2018, PPI auctioned off 124 projects and collected USD 62.5 billion in investments. The full list of PPI projects is located at:
While some subsidized financing through BNDES will be available, PPI emphasizes the use of private financing and debentures for projects. All federal and state-level infrastructure concessions are open to foreign companies with no requirement to work with Brazilian partners. In 2017, Brazil launched the Agora é Avançar initiative for promoting investments in primary infrastructure, and this has supported several projects. Details can be found at: .The latest information available about Avançar Parcerias is from September 30, 2018. From over 7,000 projects, the program has completed 36.5 percent and 92.2 percent are in progress.
In 2008, the Ministry of Health initiated the use of Production Development Partnerships (PDPs) to reduce the increasing dependence of Brazil’s healthcare sector on international drug production and the need to control costs in the public healthcare system, services that are an entitlement enumerated in the constitution. The healthcare sector accounts for 9 percent of GDP, 10 percent of skilled jobs, and more than 25 percent of research and development nationally. These agreements provide a framework for technology transfer and development of local production by leveraging the volume purchasing power of the Ministry of Health. In the current administration, there is increasing interest in PDPs as a cost saving measure. U.S. companies have both competed for these procurements and at times raised concerns about the potential for PDPs to be used to subvert intellectual property protections under the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
* IBGE and BCB data, year-end.
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
|Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data|
|From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, billions)|
|Inward Direct Investment||Outward Direct Investment|
|Total Inward||635.12||100%||Total Outward||254.23||100%|
|United States||109.61||17.3%||British Virgin Islands||46.73||18.4%|
|“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.|
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
|Portfolio Investment Assets|
|Top Five Partners (billions, US Dollars)|
|Total||Equity Securities||Total Debt Securities|
|All Countries||40.13||100%||All Countries||31.11||100%||All Countries||9.02||100%|
|United States||13.84||34.5%||United States||10.37||33.3%||United States||3.47||38.5%|
|Cayman Islands||4.25||10.6%||Cayman Islands||3.93||12.6%||Korea, South||0.50||5.5%|