Court clears Petrobras to resume asset sales

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Brazil's federal audit court (TCU) has cleared the way for state-run oil company Petrobras to resume its multibillion-dollar divestment drive by lifting an injunction that blocked talks with prospective buyers.

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Petrobras was ordered to halt its sales negotiations in December amid allegations it breached competition and transparency rules.

In a filing with Brazil's securities regulator, Petrobras said it was free to begin new sales processes and conclude two deals that are at an advanced stage.

The Rio de Janeiro-based firm would have to adopt new guidelines outlined by the TCU that give greater transparency to its bidding processes, the statement added.

Petrobras is selling around US$35bn of assets as it attempts to overcome a crippling corruption scandal and pay off the industry's largest debt load.

"This decision is essential to the continuation of the company's partnership and divestment plan, which is considered one of the principal pillars in our goal to reduce leverage," Petrobras said in the statement.

Despite the TCU ruling, a number of Petrobras sales processes remain suspended by litigation from oil union representatives, also due to alleged bidding irregularities.

The company said the TCU ruling meant it could restart talks with Karoon Gas Australia for the sale of stakes in two offshore blocks without having to start the process from scratch.

It can also continue where it left off in its negotiations for the Saint Malo deepwater field in the US Gulf of Mexico with an unknown bidder, according to the statement.

But the TCU ordered Petrobras to start over its sale of a 51% stake in fuel retailer BR Distribuidora, one of the centerpieces of the company's divestment program with a reported value of US$6bn.

Petrobras has netted US$13.6bn from asset sales since January 2015 and plans to raise a further US$21bn in the next two years.