* Petrobras announced $236.7 bln 5-yr investment plan Friday
* Plans to double Brazil's natural gas supply by 2020
* Texas refinery pulled from shrinking asset-sale plan
RIO DE JANEIRO, March 19 Brazil's state-run oil
company Petroleo Brasileiro SA and its board of
directors are committed to maintaining their investment-grade
debt rating and not selling new stock, executives told investors
on a conference call Tuesday.
While the company's debt has passed Petrobras' internal
limit of 2.5 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation
and amortization (EBITDA), that ratio is expected to fall below
the limit by sometime in 2014, Chief Financial Officer Almir
The conference call detailed Petrobras' $236.7 billion
five-year investment plan announced on Friday. Under the plan,
the world's largest corporate investment program, Petrobras
increased spending in exploration and production by 4 percent
but cut funding for biofuels and new refineries as it focuses on
increasing oil and natural gas output.
New oil production is needed to generate cash to lower the
company's debt. Though Petrobras does not foresee a stock sale,
it expects annual bond sales of $12 billion under its new
investment plan, compared with $20 billion last year, Barbassa
said. He said a plan to reduce costs on Petrobras oil wells
could save at least $1.4 billion.
Petrobras is also selling some assets to try to raise cash,
but Chief Executive Officer Maria das Graças Foster said
Petrobras' Pasadena refinery in Texas would no longer be
included in asset sales.
Though Foster did not say why the refinery would be
excluded, some have said the company paid too much for it. There
was also an investigation into Petrobras' handling of the
refinery by Brazil's national public accounts auditing tribunal.
In its previous five-year plan, announced last year,
Petrobras had hoped to sell about $15 billion of assets to help
finance expansion. As it rushed to sell assets, the company
found potential buyers reluctant to pay top dollar for projects
such as its oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico.
The company now expects to sell $9.9 billion of assets by
the end of 2017.
Petrobras also plans to double the supply of gas to the
Brazilian market by 2020 and double the capacity of liquefied
natural gas (LNG) import terminals in the same period. It
expects domestic demand for fuels in Brazil to grow an average
4.2 percent per year until 2020.
Petrobras preferred shares fell 0.68 percent in Sao Paulo
trading on Tuesday.