Petrobras gets ready to start asset sale

BRAZILIAN oil giant Petrobras is getting ready to offload stakes in upstream assets as part of a $13 billion divestment plan.

Petrobras gave notice of its divestment plans last year after announcing its rolling five-year investment plan, but little has been done since then.

However, a tumbling stock price and stagnating production has increased the financial pressures on the company, which unveiled a new five-year plan last week.

Investments of $236 billion between 2012 and 2016, were up 5.3% from the previous plan, but the mounting cost of developing Brazil’s huge but technically challenging pre-salt reserves persuaded the company to slash its production targets.

While domestic upstream investments have risen each year, the amount of capital earmarked for international investments has dwindled to $6 billion, down 45.5% from $11 billion.

Information is now emerging about a range of international assets picked for farm-out or divestment, with Angola apparently heading the list.

Petrobras has a big exploration portfolio in the West African country and is already understood to be offering minority stakes of up to 15% in these. The Brazilian company has met disappointing results from its wildcatting in the country so far, although there are early signs of something much more positive on the Ogonga pre-salt prospect in Block 26, where Petrobras sold a 40% stake to BP in October 2011.

Petrobras also sold a 5% working interest in Block 15/06 to Sonangol Sinopec earlier this year.

Market consultations suggest that the company will soon be offering stakes or entire assets in several other countries, including Uruguay, Portugal and the Gulf of Mexico. Australia, Argentina and the Black Sea are also seen as possibilities.

Slightly farther down the road, there are growing expectations for a substantial array of Petrobras offerings on home turf.

It is understood that the strategy will be restricted to minority stakes in selected areas, typically between 10% and 15% of equity, but that these will go beyond purely marginal assets and will include areas in the Campos and Santos basins, and other offshore regions.

Industry sources in touch with the process suggested that areas with heavier crudes or maturing assets were obvious choices, and a stake in the Papa Terra and Maromba developments is seen as a prime candidate. Some of the more challenging supra-salt discoveries or exploration plays could also be on offer.

Hordes of oil companies and their potential backers in the financial sector are also watching closely to find out if Petrobras will reverse a policy of holding on to relatively marginal onshore assets. More details of the new Petrobras strategic plan will be presented next week.

Market sources said Petrobras is expected to open a data room for available assets before the next Brazilian licensing round.

Petrobras output

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