By Rogerio Jelmayer
SÃO PAULO -- State-controlled Petróleo Brasileiro SA announced a flurry of asset sales as the year wound down, but still fell short of its $15.1 billion divestment target for the 2015-2016 period.
The oil company commonly known as Petrobras faces similar challenges in the year ahead but its management has made progress in restoring investor confidence and cutting a huge debt load, analysts say.
Petrobras said Thursday it has sold assets with a total value of $13.6 billion last year and this year. The company attributed the shortfall to a court order that blocked the sale of various oil fields in Brazil.
In light of the missed target, Petrobras said it decided to raise its 2017-2018 divestment goal to $21 billion from $19.5 billion, as it tackles $123 billion in debt.
"The question will be if Petrobras will be able to find buyers," said Pedro Galdi, an investment analyst at Upside Investor, based in São Paulo. "The scenario will remain challenging because of the uncertainty surrounding the global economy and oil prices."
Petrobras's preferred shares closed up 0.6% at 14.87 reais ($4.57) Thursday. Mr. Galdi said he expects the share price to reach 20 reais at the end of 2017.
The company completed $752 million in asset sales this week, including a Japanese refinery bought by Taiyo Oil Co. for $165 million, as announced Thursday. On Wednesday, Petrobras said it would sell its stake in Brazilian sugar-and-ethanol producer Guarani SA to France's Tereos Internacional for $202 million andannounced the sale of some petrochemical assets to Mexico's Alpek for $385 million.
Petrobras last week entered a strategic alliance with France's Total SA that includes the sale of oil concessions and other assets that the Brazilian company said will bring in $1.6 billion in the next two months.
The sales, as well as recent management changes, are in response to various developments that left the company among the most-leveraged oil producers in the world.
The government of former President Dilma Rousseff forced the state-controlled company to sell gasoline below cost for several years leading up to her 2014 re-election campaign as part of an effort to rein in inflation.
Ms. Rousseff was ousted after an impeachment process earlier this year for violating budget laws. Her approval ratings had dropped to around 10% before leaving office, partly because of a mammoth anticorruption investigation of bid rigging and bribery at Petrobras. Prosecutors have said the scheme cost the oil company about $13 billion.
Petrobras's new management team is led by Chief Executive Officer Pedro Parente , who took the helm in June. Mr. Parente is working to regain the confidence of investors and show that the company is now being managed by market-friendly professionals -- and analysts say they are encouraged by what they have seen so far.
"Petrobras shares are now much more linked with oil prices than to domestic political factors," said Marco Saravalle, an equity analyst at investment house at XP Investimentos, which oversees a portfolio of $15.3 billion in equities and fixed-income assets for 200,000 clients.
Write to Rogerio Jelmayer at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
December 29, 2016 15:45 ET (20:45 GMT)
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