* BTG 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 Brazil's Banco BTG
Pactual SA agreed to buy 50 percent of the African operations of
Petroleo Brasileiro SA, the state-run oil giant said on Friday,
expanding the high-flying investment bank's role as a backer of
cash-squeezed Brazilian companies.
BTG Pactual agreed to pay $1.53 billion for 50
percent of Petrobras' African unit, Petrobras Oil &
Gas BV, which has offices in Angola, Benin, Gabon and Namibia
and operations in Nigeria and Tanzania, the statement said.
Petrobras is trying to sell oil fields, exploration rights,
refineries and other assets in the United States, Japan,
Argentina, Peru and other countries to help finance a $237
billion, five-year investment plan, the world's largest
corporate spending program.
It tried to sell the Nigerian assets alone for as much as $5
billion, Reuters reported on March 13.
"The operations represent 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, 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
and start-up 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
The purchase of the Petrobras assets by Esteves' bank widens
its investments in Africa, where it is seeking out mining and
agricultural opportunities with B&A Mineração, founded by former
Vale SA Chief Executive Roger Agnelli.
B&A is counting on a recent drop in world metals and
commodities prices to snap up farming, fertilizer, iron ore and
other investment ventures in Brazil and Africa at discount
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 the five-year
investment plan aimed at developing giant new offshore resources
near Rio de Janeiro.
Instead, Petrobras has been forced to increase debt above
its self-imposed limits and try to sell assets.
While Petrobras 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 in March by nearly 40
percent to $9 billion.
Pactual's purchase of 50 percent of the Nigerian assets plus
a half-stake in offices and operations in five other African
countries weighs in at less than a third of the $5 billion
Petrobras goal for the Nigerian assets alone
In December Reuters reported that Petrobras was having
trouble selling an estimated $4 billion of assets in U.S.-waters
in the Gulf of Mexico.
Rio de Janeiro-based Petrobras on May 24 rejected offers to
buy 51 percent of its Argentine unit Petrobras Argentina SA
, to Argentina's Oil Combustibles after trying to sell
them since November.
It is also trying to leave Peru, where it has several
natural gas blocks, Reuters reported June 7.
Petrobras said in a second statement on 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