Petrobras Mulls Refining Assets Sale

Posted by Joseph Keefe

Petroleo Brasileiro SA remains undecided about the sale of some refineries, a sign Brazil's state-controlled oil company might be leaning toward forming partnerships by offering stakes in some of them, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said on Thursday.

The person said Boston Consulting Group Inc had been analyzing potential scenarios for the company's refining operations over the past couple of years, and recently suggested several alternatives for the unit.

One of the options is breaking down Petrobras' refining network into geographic regions and then deciding which should go up for sale, the source said. A more palatable option, the source added, would be offering stakes in specific refineries to peers like Exxon Mobil Corp and Royal Dutch Shell Plc .

Rio de Janeiro-based Petrobras said extending partnerships in exploration and production to other business segments remained a key strategy whose main aspects are under consideration. Boston Consulting Group did not have an immediate comment.

The source requested anonymity because discussions on the matter are continuing.

The situation reflects changing fortunes at Petrobras since Chief Executive Officer Pedro Parente's appointment last May. This week, Parente told investors at a Credit Suisse conference that Petrobras wanted to remain a vertically integrated oil company and had ruled out an outright sale of all refining assets.

In recent months, Petrobras has stepped up the sale of some refining assets, such as the mothballed Okinawa refinery in Japan, and tightened safety and efficiency standards in the segment. Years of domestic fuel price controls and overspending in new projects led to repeated losses in the segment, helping Petrobras amass the biggest debt burden among global oil companies.

Parente has taken to asset sales and partnerships as one way to help cut the company's $120 billion debt and diminish capital spending commitments for the years ahead. Currently, Petrobras is the sole owner of 14 refineries in operation in Brazil.

The company has set a $21 billion asset sale target by the end of next year so it can focus investments on giant new offshore oil fields south of Rio de Janeiro, one of the world's largest discoveries in decades.

By Tatiana Bautzer

Feb 2, 2017

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