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Energy

Brazil's Petrobras aims to step up oil exports and asset sales

RIO DE JANEIRO/SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil’s Petrobras on Monday projected a surge in oil exports and divestments over the next five years as it steps up plans to target overseas demand and cut debt.

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In a virtual presentation to investors during the state-controlled company’s annual investor day, Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as it is formally known, said domestic oil sales are expected to fall to 1.252 million barrels per day (bpd) in the 2021-2025 period, versus 1.348 million bpd in the five years ending in 2019.

Crude exports, however, are forecast to climb to an average of 891,000 bpd from the 445,000 bpd that the company averaged in the five-year period ending in 2019.

China has emerged as Petrobras’ most important export market, but Chief Executive Roberto Castello Branco has said the company is working to develop other markets, such as India.

In the same presentation, accompanied by executives’ comments, the company said it planned to divest $25 billion to $35 billion in assets from 2021 to 2025. That was up from the $20 billion to $30 billion in divestments projected for 2020-2024.

The comments and presentation reflected plans to shift back into gear after the crude price crash and economic downturn brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, which slowed its divestment programme to a crawl.

Last week the company gave the first glimpse of its five-year business plan, featuring a lower than expected 2021 production outlook.

The company’s Brazil-listed preferred shares fell 1.5% in Monday afternoon trade, slightly underperforming Brazil’s benchmark Bovespa equities index, which was down 1.1%.

Petrobras executives said the divestment of gas distribution business Liquigas should be formalized in December.

Preliminary sale agreements for the company’s REFAP and REPAR refineries should be signed in the first quarter, with the signing of the RLAM refinery likely by January, Castello Branco told journalists later in the day.

The company expects to accept binding offers for two more refineries - known as REGAP and RNEST - in the first quarter, he added.

However, Petrobras will have to restart the leasing process for a natural gas facility in Bahia state in early 2021 after the only bidder in the previous round was disqualified because of corruption-related concerns, said Petrobras downstream head Anelise Lara.

Petrobras will also need to remodel the divestment of its Gaspetro natural gas operation after antitrust authorities rejected its sale this month.

Reporting by Roberto Samora and Gram Slattery; Editing by Louise Heavens, Richard Chang and David Goodman

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