BankAmerica Corp. is leading a $1 billion syndicated loan for Avantel Brazil, which it is billing as the largest Brazilian corporate loan to date.

The loan, for which bank meetings were held Wednesday, backs Avantel's bid for a cellular telephone license. Avantel Brazil is a consortium consisting of U.S. wireless firm Airtouch Communications Inc., Brazilian bank Uniao de Bancos Brasileiros SA, and three other Brazilian companies.

Co-arrangers on the loan include ABN Amro Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia, Banque Nationale De Paris, Dresdner Bank, and Lehman Brothers Inc.

Brazil is privatizing its badly outmoded telecommunications system, including the auction of 10 regional cellular concessions known as B- bandwidth. The activity is triggering a flurry of corporate lending, and the entire sale is expected to generate more than $6 billion in bids.

The country has the lowest telephone use in Latin America, with only 9.3 lines per 100 people-compared with an average of 13.6 in the region and 62 in the United States.

Avantel's bids were approved for eight of the 10 regions, more than any other single bidder, putting the consortium in prime position to lead the expected explosion of cellular communications in Brazil.

Pricing on the Avantel loan begins at the London interbank offered rate plus 168 basis points, and runs to Libor plus 249 basis points. Syndication is expected to close July 2, according to BankAmerica.

Several U.S. banks, including Chase Manhattan Corp., Citicorp, J.P. Morgan & Co., and BankBoston Corp. have been positioning themselves for heavy competition in a rapidly developing corporate finance market in Brazil.

Financial executive recruiters said they have their hands full trying to locate qualified bankers with Brazilian experience.

Brazil is booming, said Lee Pomeroy of Egon Zehnder International. "In Brazil, I don't think it would be possible to do more work."

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