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Brazil seeks investors to improve airports before World Cup

When Brazil hosts the 2014 World Cup, it will face the huge challenge of ferrying millions of soccer fans, players and officials around a continent-sized country for 64 matches that will be played in 12 cities.

Right now many of its airports are barely up to the task of handling rapidly growing domestic air traffic, but Brazil has begun a process of inviting in private investors and granting concessions to renovate and manage airports across the country. Infraero, a government corporation that runs many Brazilian airports, will maintain a 49 percent stake in the joint ventures formed with investors.

It will be a sprint to the finish. Last week FIFA, the international governing body for soccer, announced the opening World Cup match will be held in São Paulo on June 12, 2014 and that already demand for tickets is exceeding expectations.

FIFA said it expects to make about 3.3 million tickets available and put them on sale towards the end of August 2013.

While FIFA was making its announcements in Zurich last week, Wagner Bittencourt, Brazil’s minister of civil aviation, was outlining his country’s plans to make its airports ready for prime time.

In a conference call with journalists last Thursday, he promised all the airport work would be completed by December 2013 and perhaps some of it earlier.

But even if Brazil makes that deadline, it would mean the airports may not be ready for the Confederations Cup, a tune-up for the World Cup that Brazil will host in June 2013.

The government is planning to invest about $7.5 billion reais ($4.24 billion) in upgrading its airports with about 87 percent of that devoted to airports serving cities that will host World Cup games.

The concession process has already been opened for three airports, which combined handle 30 percent of Brazil’s passenger traffic and 57 percent of cargo, and it will be open to foreign investors.

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