UPDATE 1-BTG Pactual snaps up Petrobras Africa stake for $1.53 bln
* EBX extends drive to bolster troubled resource companies
* Petrobras sought $5 bln for Nigeria assets alone -Reuters
* Pactual lends hand to Petrobras after backstopping EBX
By Jeb Blount
RIO DE JANEIRO, June 14 (Reuters) - Brazil's Banco BTG Pactual SA continued a drive that has snapped up assets in troubled Brazilian resource companies by agreeing to buy 50 percent of an African business owned by state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, the companies said on Friday.
BTG Pactual agreed to pay $1.53 billion for 50 percent of Petrobras' Petrobras Oil & Gas BV which has offices in Angola, Benin, Gabon and Namibia and operations in Nigeria and Tanzania, the statement said.
Petrobras had hoped to sell the Nigeria assets alone for as much as $5 billion, Reuters reported on March 13.
"The operations represents an important step for Petrobras in its asset-sale program, allowing it to increase its activities in Africa and the sharing of investments needed to expand and develop its resources," a statement from Petrobras said.
BTG Pactual, the high-flying Brazilian investment bank founded and led by billionaire Andre Esteves, has taken advantage of sluggish world demand for commodities, soaring project development costs and rising corporate debt to buy assets or sell investment-banking services to cash-strapped resource companies.
In March, BTG Pactual formed a partnership with Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista's troubled EBX Group, offering loans and helping its oil, mining, shipbuilding, port and electricity companies restructure.
Petrobras finds its revenue squeezed by falling output, delays at new fields and government-ordered fuel subsidies. These problems have made it hard to finance a $237 billion five-year investment plan, the world's largest corporate-spending program.
Instead, the company has been forced to increase debt above its self-imposed limits and try to sell assets.
While it had hoped to sell $14.8 billion of Brazilian and international assets over five years, a lack of interest and low offers forced it to cut its estimate nearly 40 percent to $9 billion earlier this year.
Reuters reported on March 13 that Petrobras was trying to sell its Nigerian assets alone for $5 billion. Pactual's purchase of 50 percent of the Nigerian assets plus a half-stake in offices and operations in five other countries weighs in at less than a third of the $5 billion goal.
Petrobras also said in a second statement Friday that it is restructuring its petrochemical holdings by incorporating five petrochemical subsidiaries into the parent company.
The incorporation will not involve any sale of new stock in the companies, Petrobras said.
In a third statement, Petrobras said it was selling its 49 percent stake in Brasil PCH SA, a company that operates 13 small hydroelectric dams with 291 megawatts of capacity, to Cia Energética de Minas Gerais for 650 million reais ($303 million).