The roller coaster business career of Brazilian mining tycoon Eike Batista may be about to take another upturn following reports that what remains of his business empire has attracted interest from China Development Integration Limited, a Hong Kong-based group that, according to its website, specialises in overseas “belt and road” infrastructure investments.
Batista made his first million as an adventurous investor in Amazon gold mines and went on to experience his first bankruptcy in the same sector.
His personal life was also painfully exposed after his marriage to one of Brazil’s most famous samba “queens” collapsed in a storm of publicity in 2004.
Following in the footsteps of his father — who put together the pieces of a vast iron ore extraction and export operation that today takes the shape of mining conglomerate Vale — Batista built up his EBX empire of companies, covering mining, logistics, oil and gas and offshore industries, among others.
Batista’s star reached a zenith in 2008 when he sold part of his iron ore business to Anglo-American for a cool $5.5 billion.
The ambitions of Batista’s business projects seemed to know no bounds and he revelled in his portrayal as one of the richest men in the world who was also changing the face of his favourite city, Rio de Janeiro.
Overinvesting and the interdependency of several of his business units resulted in the spectacular collapse of his group.
Batista was then caught up in the wave of prosecutions generated by the Car Wash corruption probe, although his alleged offences had more to do with misleading market filings, insider trading and stock market manipulation.
Batista is appealing against several convictions, and still faces the risk of lengthy prison sentences, as well as hefty financial penalties, but the news that his bankruptcy-threatened MMX unit is negotiating backing for new mining projects came with the kind of hyperbole that will leave Brazilians in no doubt that Batista is back.
On Batista’s desk, apparently, are projects including a gas pipeline linking Brazil to Paraguay, renewable energy and nano-technologies, as well as a new batch of gold mines.
Talk of “apparently infinite” sums of capital available for these projects trigger sceptical sniggers rather than sighs of admiration these days, but it is hard to write off a man who, even his own critics acknowledge, has a brilliant mind for infrastructure projects.
Any doubts about this can be dispelled by a visit to one of his former ventures, Acu Port, currently going great guns under the control of giant US investment firm EIG Global Energy Partners.
Not everyone is impressed by the mooted resuscitation of MMX, however.
The Brazilian Association of Investors (Abradin) issued a note accusing Batista’s mining unit of filing “misleading and fanciful” stock market information which lifted the value of a company that is still in judicially supervised bankruptcy protection.