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Brazil's Petrobras says major divestments nearing finish line

Petrobras is in the advanced stages of several major divestments, executives said, indicating that the company’s ambitious deleveraging program may quicken after a pause during the worst of the coronavirus outbreak in Brazil.

Speaking to analysts following the company's third-quarter results, executives at Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as the state-run oil firm is formally known, said it hopes to finalize negotiations to sell its RLAM refinery by the end of the year and has recently received binding offers for its REMAN refinery, in the Amazonian city of Manaus.

The company expects to receive binding offers for its REPAR refinery in southern Brazil in December, they added.

Petrobras has been working to sell dozens of non-core assets in recent years in a bid to reduce debt and sharpen its focus on offshore oil production and exploration. Among those divestments are the sale of nine refineries that are expected to rake in well over $10 billion cumulatively for the company.

But the divestment process had ground to a crawl in recent months amid the crash in crude prices and a more general slowdown in the global economy.

The company expects Brazilian antitrust authorities to approve the sale of gas distribution unit Liquigas in November, Chief Financial Officer Andrea Almeida said.

The firm also continues to examine an initial public offering for a collection of offshore midstream assets, she added.

Executives were not as sanguine about some other divestments.

Chief Executive Roberto Castello Branco said a planned sale of its stake in the TBG gas pipeline unit, which connects Brazil and Bolivia, was being held up by regulatory issues.

The company will not sell its stake in petrochemical company Braskem SA until that firm makes significant improvements related to governance and environmental liabilities, he added.

Brazil-listed preferred shares in Petrobras were up 2.3% in late afternoon trade, after the company beat margin estimates on Wednesday evening, even as profit missed expectations due to one-off charges.

Brazil's benchmark Bovespa equities index was up 1.2%.

In terms of production, executives flagged a modest decrease in fourth quarter output and increase in lifting costs due to scheduled maintenance. Still, they said, a number of new wells had come online in some of the company’s most promising offshore fields in the fourth quarter.

The company has noticed a short-term decrease in demand for its products in Europe due to the resurgence of COVID-19 there, said André Chiarini, the company’s head of logistics and trading. However, demand for Petrobras fuel in China remains strong, he added.

Reporting by Gram Slattery and Luciano Costa; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and David Evans

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