(Adds Petrobras statement)
By Leonardo Goy
BRASILIA, March 15 Brazil's federal audit court
TCU on Wednesday allowed state-run oil company Petroleo
Brasileiro SA to proceed with its divestment program,
but required the company to restart the process except for two
The decision means that moves by Petrobras, as the company
is known, to sell off a controlling stake in its fuels
distribution unit BR Distribuidora will start from scratch.
Petrobras had been prevented from signing any new asset
sales while TCU reviewed its procedures and the court overturned
an injunction that suspended sales in December.
The two assets that Petrobras will be able to sell without
restarting the process are the rights to operate the Baúna and
Tartaruga Verde offshore oil fields, and a share of Petrobras'
deepwater rights in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.
Other assets will have to be sold under new rules that were
not immediately made public. Sale decisions will remain the
responsibility of the board of directors, through direct
negotiations with buyers instead of a bidding process.
Petrobras said in a statement it would follow
recommendations by the TCU to improve the divestment process and
make it more competitive.
"This decision is fundamental for the company to press ahead
with its plan for partnerships and divestments, one of the
pillars for reaching its target of reducing leverage," the
Saulo Puttini, the TCU's infrastructure coordinator, told
reporters the new rules will increase transparency and oversight
in future asset sales.
Petrobras has sold about 30 assets since 2012 when the
divestment program began, Puttini said, noting that another 40
remain to be sold.
The divestment plan has also been held up by an injunction
obtained by the Alagoas oil workers union in Sergipe state,
Sindipetro-AL/SE. The injunction has blocked the sale of the
Baúna and Tartaruga Verde oil fields, the Baúna and Tartaruga
Verde oil fields, as well as the inland fields in the states of
Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Sergipe, Bahia and Espírito Santo.
Petrobras's statement did not mention the oil worker's
The union's lawyer, Raquel Sousa, said in an interview that
the oil workers would not accept the sale of Petrobras assets
without a bidding process as provided for by Brazilian law to
protect the country's capital.
The injunction in November forced Petrobras to suspend talks
with Karoon Gas Australia Ltd on the sale of a 100 percent stake
in the 45,000 barrels-per-day Bauna field, in the Santos Basin,
and a 50 percent interest in Tartaruga Verde, still in
development, in the Campos Basin.
(Reporting by Leonardo Goy; Writing by Anthony Boadle and Ana
Mano; Editing by Richard Chang and Lisa Shumaker)