After months of the occasional cross-border saunter, Brazil is now moving at a rhythm worthy of samba. Hot on the heels of credit card processor Visanet, three issuers from the Latin giant have descended on cross-border investors over the last two weeks for a total of US$447 million, according to sources. Two of those transactions - Gerdau/ Acominas and Companhia Side- rurgica Nacional (CSN) - were in the steel sector, whereas the third was by Banco Itau, a bank.

CSN priced a US$142 million, seven-year final 144A at 485 basis points over Treasurys via BNP Paribas, while Acominas issued a US$105 million, seven-year final private placement via JPMorgan Securities at 500 basis points over five-year Treasurys, according to sources. Having spent the first half of the year focused on straight-vanilla paper, EM investors were suddenly swamped with the structured stuff. "We had these periods of fear, then all these deals at once," said one investor. "But even in bad times, these are the right deals."

The "right deals" for many investors who endured Argentina are future flows. But with a few transactions simultaneously on offer and the significant upsize for Visanet to US$500 million, buyers could be choosers. With Acominas up against CSN, they seemed to have preferred the latter by 15 basis points, despite identical ratings of BBB-' from Fitch Ratings.

Both structures had their appeal, but a full merger of Gerdau with currently 78.9% controlled Acominas may have been the tipping point for understandably picky investors. "There was some integration risk with Acominas," said one investor.

Last week, Banco Itau priced a US$200 million, two-tranche 144A with no registration rights backed by existing and future diversified payment rights. Nomura Securities was the lead. MBIA provided a surety, garnering top-notch ratings from all three ratings agencies. Sized at US$150, a floating tranche with a legal final maturity of five years priced at 63 basis points over six-month Libor. The other US$50 million was a fixed-rate piece maturing in March 2004 and yielding five basis points over five-month Libor.

The DPRs being securitized cover a wide range of payment orders processed by Itau. The vast majority of flows stem from exports and foreign direct investment. The standalone ratings on the floating tranche are Baa1'/'BBB'/'BBB' by Moody's Investors Service, Standard & Poor's and Fitch, respectively.

The Itau deal marks only the second wrapped issue this year. With Ambac and XLCA still tapped out in Brazil, MBIA has been doing the honors. Other wrapped structured deals are expected out in the next couple of months.

One that may not arrive is from Brazil's CVRD, according to one source. The iron ore producer was heard talking to MBIA for a securitization of receivables, but that deal may be shelved in favor of a straight transaction. CVRD recently handed a mandate to Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley for a plain vanilla for around US$300 million. MBIA might still be involved.

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