Bloomberg reports that Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PBR) may have found buyers for its massive fuel distribution business, Petrobras Distribuidora, also known as BR. The newly formed Itausa, a joint venture between some of Latin America’s biggest bankers and Brazil’s largest lender, are reportedly preparing a bid for the business that could reach as much as $6 billion dollars. Other potential suitors include the Vitol Group, GP Investments and Advent International. (For more, see also: Petrobras Nears Deal on Record Asset Sale: Report.)
After finding no buyers for a minority stake in BR, this deal would provide the eventual buyer with 51%—controlling interest—of the distributor. The subsidiary distributes petroleum and natural gas products throughout Brazil and operates over 7,500 gas stations.
Petrobras has the largest running debt in the oil industry at $124 billion dollars, giving them a total debt to total assets ratio of 50%. That debt has consistently dragged their stock price down. Compared to other major oil and gas producers, Petrobras has only seen minor gains as a result of the recent bump in oil prices.
This sale is part of a recent trend of selling off Petrobras assets. In a statement released on Sept. 23, Brookfield Asset Management Inc. (BAM) said they agreed to buy a 90% stake in Nova Transportadora do Sudeste, the Petrobras natural gas distribution unit. In July, they sold a controlling stake in a recently discovered offshore oil field to Statoil ASA (STO). In May, they sold their Argentina and Chile subsidiaries to Pampa Energía. They are currently negotiating the sale of their petrochemical units, Petroquímica Suape and Citepe, to Alpek. (For more, see: Petrobras Impact on the Brazilian Economy.)
Overall, they plan to divest more than $19 billion worth of assets over the next two years.
These sales look to put the state-run oil company on better footing for the future after a series of corruption scandals took down the former President, Dilma Rousseff, and finance minister, Guido Mantega. Prosecutors allege former directors worked with high-ranking government officials to siphon an estimated R$42 billion ($13 billion U.S. dollars) from the company over several years. With an aggressive recovery plan that includes cutting investments and increasing price transparency, Petrobras could survive long enough to take advantage of the predicted recovery of the oil market.