Brazilian state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA plans to raise some US$26.9-billion via asset sales and partnerships by 2023 while boosting investments on the front edge of an anticipated production boom in Brazil.
Petrobras intends to make US$84.1-billion in investments from 2019 to 2023, above the US$74.5-billion forecast in its 2018-2022 plan, it said in a five-year investment program unveiled on Wednesday morning.
The firm also moderately cut its oil production forecast, but still forecast production to increase by 10 per cent next year, and then 5 per cent every year through 2023.
Petrobras is trying to stay the course on efforts to reduce one of the heftiest debt loads among oil companies worldwide – US$88-billion in gross debt – through divestments and an investment focus on Brazil’s coveted offshore presalt area.
“The strategic plan came within the expectations of the market, a reasonable increase in oil prices, with important refining divestments and an ambitious leverage target,” said Adriano Pires, a consultant at Brazil’s Center for Infrastructure.
In a call with investors, Petrobras chief financial officer Rafael Grisolia said the company expects to attract partners for its refineries in the short term.
While the plan appeared to contain no major surprises, it was released just as prosecutors in Brazil alleged that trading giants Vitol Group, Trafigura Group Pte. Ltd. and Glencore PLC paid over US$30-million in bribes to Petrobras employees.
The allegations are another black eye for Petrobras, which has been at the centre of Brazil’s sprawling “Car Wash” corruption investigations, and the firm is eager to clean up its image.
Preferred Brazil-listed shares in Petrobras edged up 0.3 per cent in afternoon trade, paring earlier losses, while Brazil’s benchmark Bovespa Index was little changed.
Whether or not the company sticks to the plan, Mr. Pires added, will depend on the coming government of right-wing president-elect Jair Bolsonaro.
“The challenge of the next government is to maintain this plan,” he said.
Mr. Bolsonaro, a former lawmaker and military officer, last month named Roberto Castello Branco, a University of Chicago-trained economist, to succeed current chief executive Ivan Monteiro, who is set to step down on Jan. 1.
While Mr. Castello Branco has said he favours selling non-core assets, some of the generals close to Mr. Bolsonaro, who see the oil company as a “strategic asset,” may put the brakes on any radical restructuring bid.
Petrobras will maintain its focus on deepwater exploration and production, particularly in Brazil’s coveted presalt blocks, an offshore area where billions of barrels are locked beneath a thick layer of salt under the ocean.
Even so, the company reduced its oil production target to 6 per cent in annualized growth from 8 per cent in its previous plan.
“Frankly, I’ve lost count of how many times the production targets have been slashed over the past five-plus years,” said Pavel Molchanov, an energy analyst at Raymond James.
The oil company also disclosed its return on invested capital should be above 11 per cent in 2020, as it sells assets and cuts debt.
Its ratio of net debt to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization should fall to 1.5 times by the end of that year, it added, from a goal of 2.5 by the end of 2018.