Petrobras to sell Pasadena, Texas, refinery

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's state-run Petrobras oil company headquarters is pictured in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, September 14 2017. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes/File photo

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, Petróleo Brasileiro SA, said on Tuesday it had started taking steps to sell its refinery in Pasadena, Texas, an installation ensnared in Brazil’s largest corruption scandal.

Petrobras, as the company is known, said its U.S. subsidiary, Petrobras America Inc, would soon open a non-binding phase for interested companies to communicate willingness to take part in negotiations for the 110,000-barrels-per-day processing unit.

The Pasadena refinery has been the target of several investigations in Brazil, with prosecutors and members of an audit court suspecting bribes were paid to Petrobras executives as a result of the purchase of the facility in 2006.

The Brazilian oil company paid $360 million for half of the Pasadena refinery that year, more than eight times what its previous owner, Astra Oil, a unit of Belgian-controlled Astra Transcor Energy, paid for the complex a year earlier.

By 2012, Petrobras had sunk $1.18 billion into it, including the cost of buying out Astra’s remaining half after a legal dispute between the firms.

The purchase of the refinery was one of the targets of prosecutors behind the so-called Car Wash investigation centered on the state-controlled oil company, which lost billions of dollars as a result of widespread corruption in dozens of contracts.

Current Petrobras management has said the company was a victim in all the corruption cases. Federal prosecutors in Brazil presented corruption and money-laundering charges last December against 11 people related to the Pasadena deal.

Brazilian audit court TCU said the deal caused losses of more than $580 million to the company.

The Brazilian oil company said on Tuesday it would also sell the other companies linked to the refining complex: PRSI Trading LLC and PRSI Real Property Holdings LLC.

Reporting by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney