SAO PAULO, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Brazilian state-controlled oil company Petróleo Brasileiro SA raised $2.1 billion on Friday from the sale of stakes in several petrochemical and oil exploration projects, making progress in its effort to shed non-core assets and protect cash.
Petrobras, as the Rio de Janeiro-based company is known, sold a 35 percent stake in a Santos Basin oil exploration project to China’s Sinochem Group Co Ltd for $1.54 billion, all of the shares it owned in a petrochemical compound, as well as stakes in a Gulf of Mexico bloc and a thermal energy company in Brazil, according to a securities filing.
The sale of oil fields, exploration rights, refineries and other assets are being made to help finance a $237 billion, five-year investment plan. However, selling assets has been harder than expected. In March, Petrobras lowered its forecast for the value of asset sales by nearly 40 percent to $9 billion from $14.8 billion.
Chief Financial Officer Almir Barbassa said this week that the bulk of the five-year, asset sale program will be completed this year. A dearth of cash, rising debt and what seems as signs of over stretching caused by increasing goals and projects are taking a toll on the company, whose shares have slumped 20 percent over the past 12 months.
“These transactions represent an important step for Petrobras’ asset divestment program,” the filing said.
The slew of asset sales comes at a time when investors are concerned with the possibility of rapid cash burn in the coming months as Petrobras steps up investments. Debt rose to 34 percent of the company’s capital in the second quarter and to 2.6 times last 12-month earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization.
The sale of the 35 percent stake held by Petrobras in block BC-10, known as Parque das Conchas, to Sinochem Group comes in the wake of recent similar deals. Block BC-10 is located in Campos Basin, some 100 kilometers (63 miles) off the southern coast of the Espírito Santo state, with partners in the venture including Royal Dutch Shell Plc, with a 50 percent stake and ONGC with a 15 percent participation.
In a separate transaction, Petrobras sold all of Petroquímica Innova SA to the majority shareholder of Videolar SA for about $372 million, including debt.
The company also raised $185 million from the sale of its stake in blocks MC 613, GB 244 and EW 910, all located in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. The transaction is subject to third party preemptive rights and approval by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the filing said.