January 18, 2017 / 3:02 AM / 7 months ago

Brazil's Odebrecht settling bribe cases in 12 countries

A sign of the Odebrecht Brazilian construction conglomerate is seen at their headquarters in Lima, Peru, January 5, 2017.Mariana Bazo

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's largest engineering conglomerate Odebrecht SA [ODBES.UL] plans to reach settlements in all 12 countries where it has admitted to paying bribes to obtain contracts, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

The family-owned firm signed a $1.94 billion leniency deal with U.S., Swiss and Brazilian prosecutors in December for its involvement in a massive bribery and political kickback scheme and is striving to survive as a multinational concern by negotiating deals in a dozen other countries where it operated.

"The company hopes to complete this process by mid-year," one of the sources said, requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter. A second source confirmed the information.

Since December, Odebrecht has agreed to pay $32 million to the government of Colombia, $59 million to the Panamanian government and $8.9 million to Peru's as investigations of bribes paid to officials are under way in the three countries.

"The company has to pass through this phase if it is to return to growth," one of the sources said. He declined to details the costs of further settlements in the works.

Fitch credit rating agency downgraded Odebrecht's engineering unit Odebrecht Engenharia e Construcao S.A.'s (OEC) from B- to CC on Tuesday, saying the global plea deal the company signed in December had not improved its situation.

Instead it has "exacerbated OEC's reputational risk and triggered a series of investigations in some countries where the company operates," Fitch said. Corruption probes in Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Peru will probably result in the stoppage of projects under construction, suspension from participation in new public biddings and the payment of fines, the agency said.

Fitch said OEC continues to support its parent, a cash burn that further pressures its liquidity.

The sources that spoke to Reuters, however, said the rating downgrade will not impact management of the company's debt that stood at $3.4 billion at the end of September, because the main payments are not due until 2025 when a $519 million tranche is due.

OEC said in a statement that the Fitch rating change will not affect the current cost of financing its debt.

The company said it had a portfolio of projects worth $21.3 billion in September, which will shrink because some have been finished with no new contracts coming in.

"The company is taking steps to clean its reputation and it will have to shrink now to be able to grow again in the future," one of the sources said.

Reporting by Aluisio Pereira; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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