Petrobras Selling Stake to Mitsui

Petrobras Selling Stake to MitsuiPetrobras Selling Stake to Mitsui

Brazil's state-run Petroleo Brasileiro SA's board approved selling a minority stake in a natural gas distribution unit to Japan's Mitsui & Co. for $490 million (1.9 billion reais) in a key step toward disposing of non-essential assets to repay debt.

Petrobras, as the oil producer is commonly known, had been engaged in negotiations with Mitsui Gas e Energia do Brasil Ltda over the sale of 49% stake in Gaspetro, an investment holding company comprising the interests Petrobras has in regional gas distributors across Brazil, Reuters reported.

The sale of the Gaspetro stake forms part of an asset divestment plan that Petrobras already announced for the 2015-19 period and that can help the world's most indebted oil firm to remain current on its obligations.

By partially divesting assets in gas and fuel distribution, biofuels and transport equipment, Petrobras CEO Aldemir Bendine is aiming to speed up the development of promising offshore oil discoveries known as subsalt.

Still, Petrobras is putting those assets on the block at a time of plunging oil prices and limited interest from potential buyers.

Investors and analysts have spotted Mitsui as a natural buyer for some of Petrobras' non-core assets because of the Japanese company's knowledge of Brazil and ability to remain a minority shareholder in large projects and businesses in the country. Mitsui is already a Petrobras partner in eight gas distribution companies in Brazil. More than 30 potential bidders have shown interest in buying a stake in Petrobras' fuel distribution unit BR Distribuidora SA, including Chinese companies and financial institutions, the source added.