For Petróleo Brasileiro, or Petrobras, as the giant Brazilian oil company is called, the time to present audited 2014 results, including the write-downs associated with the highly publicized historical corruption scandal, is running out.
The risk is that creditors’ patience could end, a report by Moody’s investor service said.
The “Lava Jato” operation, which in Portuguese means Operation Car Wash, discovered billions of suspect payments, bribes and kickbacks to politicians by company execs. So far the company and its recently appointed CEO, Aldemir Bendine, have yet to disclose the total sum allegedly paid out.
“Petrobras’s credit problems stem mainly from its failure to report audited financial results to Brazilian and US regulators since June 2014, which increases the likelihood of a covenant breach and the risk of creditors’ declaring Petrobras in default and seeking accelerated payment,” said credit-rating agency Moody’s in a March comment. “The lack of audited financial statements has effectively cut Petrobras off from the capital markets,” said the rating agency, which in February downgraded Petrobras to Ba2 from Baa3.
New CEO Bendine was quoted in the local press as saying that the audit will be presented by the end of March. But regulatory investigations and shareholders’ litigations are expected to drag on for years. “To protect itself, Petrobras will have to retain cash by cutting operating expenses and capital spending,” said Moody’s, adding that the impact on the Brazilian economy will be huge.
The reduction in business for Petrobras is not limited to the 23 engineering and construction companies under investigation in the scandal. It extends to large names operating in the infrastructure business, such as Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez. On top of this, uncertainties around Petrobras’s future investment will also likely affect real estate prices in areas where the oil companies operate, the Moody’s comment said. Suppliers, such as drill ships and floating production platforms, will also see an impact on their activity and revenue.
Petrobras’s market value, which was nearly $300 billion in 2008 following a huge offshore oil & gas discovery, has since declined. It was about $35 billion in March.