The Deal: Petrobras $2.1B in Asset Sales Disappoints

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) --Brazilian oil giant Petroleo Brasileiro Petrobras ( PBR) said last Friday, Aug. 16, its board approved the sale of $2.1 billion in oil and gas, petrochemical and power plant assets as part of its $9 billion divestiture program.

The sale included Petrobras' 35% stake in block BC-10 in the Campos Basin, known as the Parque das Conchas, to China's Sinochem for $1.54 billion.

Analysts at Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. Securities wrote in a note Monday that the sales came in lower than the firm's valuation estimates, including Petrobras stake in Parque das Conchas, which it calculated as being worth $1.7 billion. But it added that the move will help fund the seller's "massive" pre-salt capital expenditure plan.

Simmons & Co. said Monday the sales also will provide some much needed relief to Petrobras' "bloated" balance sheet, whose debt level rose to 34% of capitalization in the second quarter.

Petrobras' partners in Parque das Conchas, 50% holder and operator Royal Dutch Shell ( RDS.A) and 15% owner Oil and Natural Gas Corp. of India, have preemptive rights that can be exercised within 30 days after notification. The sale must clear the Brazilian Antitrust Authority, Brazil's National Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels Agency and China's National Development and Reform Commission.

Sinochem's purchase continues a trend of Chinese companies investing in Brazil's oil sector. In January Sinochem agreed to buy a 10% stake in five offshore oil blocks in Brazil's Espírito Santo basin from Anglo-French Perenco SA. In 2010, it agreed to pay just over $3 billion for a 40% stake in Brazil's Peregrino oilfield bought from Norway's Statoil ( STO).

In addition to Parque das Conchas, Petrobras agreed to sell Petroquímica Innova SA, a maker of ethylbenzene, styrene and polystyrene for use in home appliances, packaging and fiberglass in Triunfo, to Videolar and its majority shareholder for R$870 million ($372 million) and R$23 million in debt assumption. That deal has to be cleared by shareholders as well as the Brazilian Antitrust Authority.

Petrobras also signed farm-out contracts amounting to $185 million for its 33% stake in block MC 613 (Coulomb), 100% of block GB 244 (Cottonwood) and 60% of block EW 910, all in production and in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. It didn't name the buyers. Shell operates the Coulomb field with a 67% stake while W&T Offshore Inc. owns 40% of EW910. Those deals must clear third party preemptive rights and approval by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Petrobras also sold 20% of Companhia Energética Potiguar to Global Participações em Energia for R$38 million. The company owns the diesel-powered, 119.5 megawatt Potiguar and Potiguar III thermal power plants in Macaíba, state of Rio Grande do Norte. That sale must clear the Brazilian Antitrust Authority.

Petrobras committed to invest $237 billion over the five years to develop its oil fields in the Atlantic Ocean, which are believed to contain billions of barrels of crude oil under a thick layer of salt. In June it sold half of its African unit Petrobras Oil & Gas BV to investment bank BTG Pactual as part of a joint venture for $1.53 billion.

But selling assets has been challenging, so in March Petrobras lowered its divestiture goal to $9 billion from $14.8 billion. In May it cancelled the auction for its assets in Argentina, saying it didn't receive any offers that met its unspecified asking price.

-- Written by Claire Poole in Houston

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