Apollo-backed Starboard in exclusive talks with Petrobras for 9 oilfields -sources

RIO DE JANEIRO/SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Apollo Global Management-backed investment firm Starboard Restructuring Partners is in exclusive talks with Petrobras to buy nine onshore oilfields for roughly 1 billion reais ($252 million), two sources familiar with the matter said this week.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Brazil's state-run Petrobras oil company is seen on a tank in at Petrobras Paulinia refinery in Paulinia, Brazil July 1, 2017. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker/File Photo

The Brazilian investment firm, in which Apollo has a 20% stake, has partnered with oil startup 3R Petroleum, aiming to bring Starboard, for which this would be its entry into oil production, more knowledge about the sector. 3R was founded in part by former Petrobras managers and has been active in the industry only recently.

The move comes as Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as Brazil’s state-run oil firm is formally known, seeks to unload stakes in mature oilfields in a bid to reduce debt and focus on the nation’s offshore, ‘pre-salt’ play.

Last week, the company announced the $384 million sale of a complex of 34 relatively small oilfields known collectively as Riacho da Forquilha to PetroReconcavo, a Salvador, Brazil-based firm. Current Chief Executive Roberto Castello Branco has made a priority of exiting the onshore segment, where production has fallen dramatically in recent years, amid flagging investments by the firm.

Petrobras and Starboard declined to comment. Ricardo Savini, a partner at 3R, did not respond to a request for comment.

One of the sources said Starboard is in talks with Petrobras to acquire the Macau and Fazenda Belem clusters, which are composed of seven and two oilfields, respectively.

Combined, those assets produce about 5,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil, according to the document seen by Reuters.

A deal would represent a second chance of sorts for 3R. Petrobras announced in November that it had reached a deal with the startup to sell Riacho da Forquilha, which aroused suspicions from unions and trade groups concerned about the deal’s lack of a clear financing structure.

Eventually, the deal was rescinded after 3R failed to acquire financing, and PetroReconcavo agreed to purchase the fields.

Starboard manages 2.5 billion reais, while its partner Apollo has more than $300 billion under management.

(This story Starboard corrects Apollo stake to 20 percent, not 30 percent, in paragraph 2).

Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Richard Chang