Pasadena’s Parsons Corp. is the latest local engineering and construction firm to buy a company in Brazil, a nation with a growing economy, vast infrastructure needs and a preference for local talent.

Parsons last month announced it would acquire privately held CT Main Engenheiros, an engineering and management services company headquartered in Sao Paulo.

“We’re hoping to use this firm to bring the entire portfolio of Parsons’ services to Brazil and to South America,” said Parsons spokeswoman Erin Kuhlman. “Water resources, wastewater, transportation – we can bring all of those skill sets to Brazil.”

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Parsons worked on projects in Brazil from the 1970s through 2004, but then sold its Brazilian operations to what’s now WorleyParsons Ltd. of Sydney. Kuhlman said the new acquisition will re-establish Parsons’ Brazilian presence.

“We’re known there, but we’d lost that market,” she said. “That’s why we’re so interested to get back.”

Other big engineering firms in Southern California are looking for acquisitions in Brazil or have already found them. Tetra Tech Inc., also in Pasadena, bought Brazilian engineering company CRA Engenharia Ltda. in June, its first acquisition in the country. It followed up with another in October, oceanographic consulting firm ASA Brazil. Aecom Technology Corp., in downtown Los Angeles, has a small presence in Brazil but is looking to acquire one or more companies there.

Brazil, a developing nation with extensive natural resources, needs more roads, bridges, water treatment plants and other big infrastructure projects. Also, it will need buildings and infrastructure to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

But foreign firms face challenges getting contracts, except in the oil and gas industries, because of a preference for local firms and workers.

That makes acquisition the only way for Parsons and other firms to break into the market.

Sunny South Africa

The South African government has approved two solar power plants developed by Santa Monica firm SolarReserve LLC. Construction is set to begin in January on both plants, each of which will use photovoltaic solar panels to produce 75 megawatts of electricity. The plants are near the towns of Bloemfontein and Kimberley, about 200 miles southwest of Johannesburg.

The projects are a departure from SolarReserve’s main business line, developing solar-thermal power plants designed to keep producing power even after the sun goes down. Rather than using photovoltaic panels to generate power, solar-thermal plants use thousands of mirrors to focus sunlight on a heat-collecting tower, producing steam that runs the same kind of turbines used in other power plants. Molten salt in the tower collects and preserves heat, allowing electricity production to continue after dark.

Kevin Smith, SolarReserve’s chief executive, said the company is still developing solar-thermal plants, including one in South Africa, but that the company is also using its expertise in project development to offer photovoltaic plants.

In South Africa, he said the two photovoltaic plants should ease the way for development of a solar-thermal plant he hopes to begin building in 2014.

“It gives us a foothold in the market,” Smith said. “And it gives us a lot of credibility with the South African government. That will help expand our base in the solar-thermal side, which is really our long-term goal down there.”

Desert Trains

Kinkisharyo International LLC, a Japanese firm chosen this year to build as many as 235 rail cars for the L.A. subway and light-rail system, is in negotiations to lease one or more buildings at Palmdale’s Site 9, a former aerospace manufacturing facility owned by Los Angeles World Airports.

In its bid to build Metro rail cars, Kinkisharyo said it would open a local assembly plant with about 200 workers. The Palmdale site could be the planned assembly location.

Kinkisharyo representatives did not return calls for comment. LAWA officials said they could not discuss ongoing negotiations.

Site 9 is home to four buildings. Two are massive hangars where Rockwell International built B-1 Lancer bombers in the 1980s, one is a warehouse-type building and the last is an office building. The site’s only current tenant is the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, which occupies one of the hangars.

Kinkisharyo is scheduled to deliver 28 rail cars by 2015, with more cars being delivered through 2020. The cars will be used to replace aging cars on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Blue Line, and for the planned extensions of the Exposition and Gold lines.

Staff reporter James Rufus Koren can be reached at jrkoren@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 225.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.