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Booming Brazil Is Like the 'US in the 1950s': Sam Zell

Brazil is booming and brimming with business opportunities—like the "US in the 1950s”—billionaire businessman Sam Zell told CNBC Wednesday. He said if Brazil continues on the same course, he predicts that the "fiscally conservative" nation will soon be one of the top two countries in terms of growth.

"Brazil has 8 percent debt compared to 70 percent (of GDP) in the US."

“It has a growing population, it’s energy self-sufficient, it’s food self-sufficient," said Zell, chairman of Equity International, about Brazil, the largest of the South American countries. “It’s growing and, at least for now, they’ve solved the problem of inflation.”

Zell also acknowledged that half of his company's investments are in Brazil.

The native Chicagoan, who made his first fortune buying and selling real estate from distressed owners, ranks 237 on this year’s Forbes list of billionaires.

More recently, he has been dealing with the bankruptcy proceedingsfollowing his acquisition of the Tribune Company, whose holdings include the Los Angeles Times, for $8.7 billion in 2007.

Zell said that even though Brazilians will elect a new president in October, both the major candidates have vowed to continue the policies of the current leader, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who goes by the name Lula.

The real estate tycoon said Brazil has 8 percent debt, compared to 70 percent (of GDP) in the US. The country has a AAA rating from several major credit-rating institutions.

Among the opportunities in store for Brazil are hosting the World Cup in 2014 and Olympic Games in 2016.

Zell said that the market for apartment rentals has come back in that rents have risen to levels charged in 2007, but that the prognosis for commercial real estate isn't as positive. Once the commercial buildings are full again, he added, then rents will be poised to climb.

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