June 17, 2020 / 7:29 PM / 17 days ago

Brazil's Petrobras plans to sell $1.8 bln stake in fuel distributor, sources say

SAO PAULO/RIO DE JANEIRO, June 17 (Reuters) - Brazil’s state-controlled oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA is resuming plans to unload its remaining stake in the country’s top gas station operator, Petrobras Distribuidora SA, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

BR Distribuidora, as the company is informally known, was privatized last year through a share offering. Now, Petrobras wants to sell as much as possible of its 37.5% remaining stake in the company, which operates some 7,700 service stations throughout Brazil.

Petrobras will try to conclude the offering during the second half of the year, the sources added, , speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

Petrobras and Petrobras Distribuidora did not immediately comment on the matter.

Both sales are part of a wider push by Petrobras to sell up to $30 billion in assets by 2024 to reduce its hefty debt load. Those plans have been slowed of late by coronavirus-related market turbulence, leading the company to scrap its debt reduction target for the year.

At current market prices, Petrobras’ stake is worth 9.7 billion reais ($1.84 billion). Petrobras Distribuidora shares tanked when restrictions to contain the novel coronavirus’ spread began. They have partially recovered but are still down 25% this year.

The sources added that Petrobras Distribuidora will raise capital by issuing new shares to strengthen its cash position. That portion of the offering will be much smaller than the sale of existing shares owned by Petrobras.

In January, Petrobras had hired the investment banking units of Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Itau Unibanco Holding SA, XP Inc, Bank of America Corp and Citigroup Inc to manage the offering.

Timing of the sale will depend on share performance, which Petrobras expects to further recover in the second half, the sources added.

$1 = 5.2650 reais Reporting by Tatiana Bautzer; Editing by Christian Plumb

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