Petrobras expected to cut investment, output in 2017-21 plan

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazil’s heavily indebted state-led oil company Petrobras will likely cut planned investment by about a sixth and its 2020 output goal by 14 percent under a five-year strategic plan scheduled for release Tuesday before markets open, according to analysts.

People leave the headquarters building of Petroleo Brasileiro S.A. (PETROBRAS) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as the company is formally known, is expected to announce a 2017-2021 capital budget of $82.7 billion, or an average of $16.6 billion a year, according to the average estimate of eight analysts surveyed by Reuters.

That would be Petrobras’ smallest five-year capital budget since 2006 and 16 percent less than the Rio de Janeiro-based company’s 2015-2019 plan revised in January.

The cuts would be part of Chief Executive Officer Pedro Parente’s fight to curb the company’s nearly $125 billion of debt, the largest of any company in the global oil industry, and focus spending on crude oil exploration and production needed to pay for it.

Parente’s efforts are complicated by oil prices at some of their lowest levels in a decade, a corruption scandal that has undermined investor confidence and huge losses on money-losing refineries and domestic fuel subsidies.

Petrobras said on Monday, as its board of directors discussed the plan, that it would unveil the program’s details at meetings with employees, the press and investors on Tuesday.

“This plan is very important for setting expectations at a company that has consistently missed expectations,” said Luana Siegfried, oil and gas analyst with Raymond James in Houston. “The company will have to cut enough to show it’s being realistic, but not so much that its future output falls too far.”

When combined with a promise to sell $15 billion of oilfields, pipelines and other assets by year-end and $43 billion through 2018, Parente said he hoped the plan would focus cash on the company’s portfolio of giant offshore oil discoveries south of Rio de Janeiro.

Petrobras’ controlling shareholder, the Brazilian government, is also counting on those fields to kick-start Brazil’s recession-mired economy. Petrobras is responsible for about 10 percent of Brazil’s gross domestic product.

The plan will also show how far Parente, appointed by new President Michel Temer, is prepared to go to at the company to reverse the policies of former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, removed from office for breaking budget laws in August.

A former Petrobras board chairwoman, she built up Petrobras during a commodities boom only to see her plans unravel along with nearly $250 billion of shareholder value.

“The new five-year business plan is the most important trigger in the short term,” said Diego Mendes, analyst at Banco Itau BBA in Sao Paulo in a note to clients. “If the plan is sufficiently robust it will help sustain the positive dynamic for Petrobras shares.”

Petrobras’ preferred shares, its most traded class of stock, have risen 96 percent so far this year.


Lower spending, though, will also cut future crude output in Brazil to about 2.32 million barrels a day (bpd), according to the average estimate of six analysts surveyed by Reuters. That is 14 percent below the company’s current 2020 outlook of 2.70 million bpd.

In 2012, before the corruption scandal, cash crunch and oil price plunge, Petrobras said it planned to produce 4.9 million bpd in Brazil in 2020. At the time Petrobras was investing more than $45 billion a year.

Some analysts also expect Petrobras’ to cut asset sale plans after success in refinancing short-term debt and after a strengthening Brazilian currency reduced the company’s debt costs, most of which are in dollars.

“It is our view that they would likely lower (asset sale) goals as the urgency for selling assets has decreased,” Mendes said a note to clients.

Additional reporting by Paula Laier and Guillermo Parra Bernal in Sao Paulo; Editing by Joseph Radford and Andrew Hay