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From Reuters (Tais Fuoco)

* Q4 net income jumps to 215.5 mln reais vs 26.2 mln

* 2008 profit 389.7 million reais vs loss 99.8 mln

* Sees Brazil’s wireless market continuing to expand

* Seen “a small growth” in January

Brazil’s largest mobile phone company Vivo Participacoes (VIVO4.SA)(VIV.N) said on Friday its fourth-quarter profit surged nearly ten-fold because of a sharp increase in new users and as it kept costs in check.

The company’s chief executive Roberto Lima said the profit surge in the fourth quarter was due to changes in its subscriber and pre-paid telephony offers and “very rigorous” cost controls, as it renegotiated contracts with suppliers.

Vivo, a joint venture of Portugal Telecom (PTC.LS) and Spain’s Telefonica (TEF.MC), said net income rose to 215.5 million reais ($94.1 million) from 26.2 million reais in the fourth-quarter of 2007.

For all of 2008, Vivo made a profit of 389.7 million reais, the best year since the company was formed in 2003, compared with losses of 99.8 million reais in 2007.

“Vivo had a few illnesses in its infancy but today it’s growth is healthy,” Lima said in an interview with Reuters.

Vivo added 2.668 million new mobile phone users in the fourth-quarter, bringing its total user base at the end of 2008 to 44.95 million people.

The jump in new wireless clients helped boost sales by 14 percent to 4.27 billion reais in the fourth quarter, Vivo said. Sales for all of 2008 totalled 15.8 billion reais.

Lima said the company’s growth could slow in 2009 but he believed Brazil’s wireless market would continue to expand.

“This is a sector that has been growing in the double digits since its creation. Even if it grows 10 percent, it’s still a fantastic rate,” he said, pointing out that any growth achieved was on the basis of an already large customer base.

He said the company had seen “a small growth” in January this year over the first month of 2008.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 43 percent to 1.39 billion reais from 978.9 million in the final quarter of 2007.

EBITDA as a percentage of sales, a measure of profitability widely followed by analysts, jumped 6.6 percentage points to 32.7 percent in the fourth-quarter.

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Spring Wireless has just established its U.S. headquarters in Seattle. The company is one of the fastest growing ventures in the mobile enterprise space and was originally founded in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2001. It has operations across the Americas, Europe and Asia.

Brazilian investment in the USA

Brazilian investment in the USA

“We see great potential in the U.S. market, which has traditionally lagged behind Europe and Latin America in mobility. Spring Wireless has been at the forefront of the mobile explosion in markets outside of the U.S. and we’re excited to support our global customers operations in the U.S.,” said Marcelo Condé, Chief Executive Officer of Spring Wireless. “With more than 220 customers worldwide, we understand the needs of global companies. Our move into North America will help us better serve our U.S. customers and help us extend into new markets as we continue to expand our business globally.”

In August 2008, Goldman Sachs, New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and Brazilian investment firm, Ideiasnet, invested $66 million in Spring Wireless to fuel its worldwide expansion and help fund future acquisitions. In connection with the financing, Spring Wireless’ Board of Directors has grown to include Raheel Zia, vice president of Goldman Sachs Principal Investment Area, and Patrick Kerins, general partner at NEA.

In addition to its new Board members, Spring Wireless has also named a U.S. management team including Shakil Haroon, who will serve as Spring Wireless USA general manager. Prior to joining Spring Wireless, Haroon spent 10 years at software startups and more than 10 years in sales and management at Intel and Microsoft.

Additionally, Liron Shaked will serve as vice president of business development and corporate marketing and Kelly Malone will serve as vice president of sales for Spring Wireless USA. With more than 12 years of international experience in both corporate and startup environments, Shaked will oversee strategic alliances, global partnerships, channel development and global marketing initiatives for Spring Wireless. Malone, who prior to joining Spring Wireless led the Microsoft sales team responsible for supporting the development, marketing and sales of Motorola smart phones, rugged hand-held computers and set-top-boxes worldwide, will head up U.S. sales.

Spring Wireless has been called the largest and fastest growing company in the mobile enterprise space and was recently identified as a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant on Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms. Spring Wireless helps connect businesses, its employees and customers to the information they need, when they need it. The company offers a robust platform, prebuilt applications and critical services, enabling greater interoperability for customers than any of its competitors. It works with more than 180 devices, multiple operating systems and an array of common business applications.

As the single point of contact for its clients, Spring Wireless deploys and manages the devices, software and services companies require to go mobile, removing the need for global companies to seek out multiple vendors in different geographical areas. The company provides a complete solution with faster deployment times and lower total cost of ownership than traditional mobile providers, reducing deployment times by up to 50 percent and total cost of ownership by up to 35 percent in some cases.

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The property market in Brazil has celebrated the news that a new record growth has been achieved, to show that the credit crisis has not reached the South American country. Housing credit has closed 2008 with 299.746 properties financed, the highest number ever and a rise of up to 53% over 2007.  According to ABECIP (Brazilian Association of Property Credit Institutions and Savings Accounts) , total amount of mortgages achieved over US$ 13 billion in 2008, a figure 64% higuer than the previous year. Only in december, total mortgage amount rose 36% in relation to november.

As The Move Channel has reported, as a consequence of the strong economy, prosperity levels are rising fast in Brazil, with sharp increases in housing demand. In just two years, 23 million people have risen to prosperity level C (middle class), which now counts 85 million people. This middle class has a monthly income between two and five times the official minimum wage.

With insufficient first home housing stock to satisfy local demand, Brazil currently has an estimated housing deficit of a minimum of eight million properties.

The middle classes are expected to purchase between 1,000,000 and 1,200,000 units per year until 2015. Fuelling demand further is the fact that for the first time in 25 years mortgages are available to Brazilians.

Mortgages account for only two per cent of GDP in Brazil, versus 65 per cent in the United States and 74 per cent in the UK, so consumers aren’t feeling the effects of credit squeeze. Massive growth in this sector means that domestic mortgages are predicted to increase by up to 600 per cent by 2014.

With this in mind it is clear that the first residence market within Brazil’s regional cities is a major investment opportunity and no region has seen faster growth that the North East.

In Natal for example, a local residential 100 square metre two bed room villa with a secure gated community can cost around 180,000 Reais (around £54,000) and deals can include optional rental guarantees of six per cent for four years and guaranteed buy back agreements from the developer.

As an investor, this means there is an opportunity to invest in well located local property that has a well defined target market and exit strategy, attracting middle class tenants and buyers.

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jetblueJetBlue or Azul Linhas Aereas, one of the leading low-cost carriers in the world,  started its operations in Brazil this week to enter a underexplored and potential gold mine market in South America. The airline was founded by David Neeleman (right) with $150m from American and Brazilian investors  with orders of up to $1.4 bi for 36 jetliners from Embraer (Brazilian Aviation Company).

Below is an excerpt from an article published on the Wall Street Journal by Susan Carey.

David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue Airways Corp., launched his fourth low-cost airline — this time in Brazil — defying poor markets for aircraft financing. Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras SA started service Monday with four jetliners and plans to acquire four more by next month. It had originally planned to start operations in January but moved up its debut to capitalize on the peak holiday season.

Mr. Neeleman said frozen credit markets make this “the worst time ever to finance a plane.” But he said Azul is leasing six aircraft, all directly or indirectly from JetBlue, another Embraer operator, and managed to get financing from the Brazilian Development Bank and a German bank for a few more aircraft. “We have five more to go,” he said in a telephone interview from Salvador de Bahia. “We’ll get it worked.”

The 49-year-old airline executive, who speaks fluent Portuguese and holds both U.S. and Brazilian citizenship, is Azul’s chairman and holds a 20% equity stake and 80% voting control in the venture. A Brazilian retailing executive was recruited as president.

One target market is Brazilians who don’t travel at all, as well as those who take about 250 million trips a year on long-distance buses. As a result, Azul’s cheapest fares, purchased 21 days in advance, are similar in price to bus tickets. Its lowest one-way fare from Campinas to Salvador de Bahia is 209 reals, or roughly $87, for a two-hour flight. The bus takes 33 hours.

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The Brazilian govervenment has celebrated today as the country’s GDP has grown to 1.8 percent in the third quarter from the second. These are further signs that the South American country is resisting the global recession.

According to the official statistics agency, IBGE, the expansion of the gross domestic product was faster than the 1.6 percent expansion in the second quarter from the first.

The announcement comes against pessimistic forecasts that saw GDP growing 1.2 percent in the third quarter. Previous estimates were between 0.4 percent to 1.4 percent growth.

According to Forbes NY: “On an annual basis, GDP expanded a robust 6.8 percent in the third quarter compared with the same period in 2007 , after posting a revised year-on-year growth of 6.2 percent in the second quarter. The result was stronger than the the 5.6 percent year-on-year GDP median growth forecast in the Reuters poll. Estimates ranged from 4.2 percent to 6.0 percent.”

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The New York Times highlighted the growth of Power.com, a start up social networking company from Brazil which aims to become the leading portal where people can access their virtual lives. Power’s investors include venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Esther Dyson. What the site does is to put in one place instant messages, network updates, email and contact lists – instead of spread across Facebook, Hi5, LinkedIn, MSN, MySpace and Google’s Orkut.

“To me the important issue is that users are driving Power themselves,” said Esther Dyson, one of the technology industry’s preeminent global trend spotters and a seed investor in Power.com. “And it excites me that these users are not just in the US. Nor are the software’s creators: Latin America has impressive software design and engineering talent. Silicon Valley is not the only place to find great talent to build a world-class company.”

Vachani, a self-proclaimed “global adventurer” arrived in Brazil 5 years ago to take a break from the Silicon Valley. A UC Berkeley graduate, and a serial entrepreneur, Vachani, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, said, “I came to Brazil with a smile, a backpack and a passion for Brazilian dance and music. I just wanted to get my mind off of technology, and I thought I would go back to the US and start a new project after a year or so. Little did I know…”

Vachani soon recognized Latin America’s hidden treasure: undiscovered great minds. Vachani stated, “I quickly realized that Latin America was like India 30 years ago, before Silicon Valley discovered it. Back then, most of India’s brilliant minds were trapped in academia or working as bureaucrats in the government, with no entrepreneurial opportunities. Today, thousands of brilliant minds in Latin America are likewise underutilized and undervalued, with their biggest dreams being jobs as government bureaucrats and academics. Little capital and few role models are available to young entrepreneurs.

If I could create a project that truly pushed the limits of innovation, and that had capital, I knew I would be able to attract hundreds of Brazil’s and Latin America’s brightest minds. Together we have built Latin America’s first global technology company built upon the Silicon Valley adage to first bring the brilliant minds together and then they will create a brilliant product and company.”

Vachani did just that. As founder and CEO of Power.com, he attracted the world renowned Silicon Valley venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, famous for investing in Skype, Baidu, and Hotmail, to invest $6 million in Power and complete DFJ’s first ever investment in Latin America. A group of private investors — including Esther Dyson — added another $2 million. Power has attracted over 70 of Brazil’s brightest minds, including self-made entrepreneurs, professors, PhD’s and top graduates from Brazil’s most prestigious universities.

Igor Barenboim, Power’s Director of Business Development, PhD graduate from Harvard University and former Global Economist for Latin America’s largest hedge fund, stated, “I joined Power when it was just an idea on paper because I truly believed that Steve’s vision would help jumpstart Latin America’s transformation into an economy which truly values its intellectual capital. As a Brazilian with great dreams for the future of Latin America, I knew I needed to join this adventure”

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The flow of direct foreign investments in Brazil has already surpassed the figure foreseen by the Brazilian Central Bank for the whole of 2008. According to the Central Bank, the total value of foreign investments in the country were US$ 37,1 billion, well above the predicted figure of US$ 35 billion.

The value refers to direct investments done by foreign organizations buying Brazilian companies or investing into the expansion of production capabilities of firms already settled in the country. The Central Bank estimates that, in total, multinational corporations have up to US$ 370 billion already invested in the South American country.

The flow of investment occurred by now is also superior to the US$ 34,6 billion reported in 2007, until then, the highest result since the Central Bank began registering investments in 1947. Central Bank’s Economic Department Chief, Altamir Lopes, says that as oppose to stock market investors, direct investments have long-term objectives, which explains the positive results achieved even during a critical period in the world economy.

“Direct foreign investments are long term resources that keep flowing in a satisfactory way. This is a consequence of a overall perception that the Brazilian economy has solid foundations”, said Mr Lopes.

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