November 14, 2017 / 2:59 PM / a year ago

Petrobras shares sink on weak third-quarter results

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Shares of Brazil’s Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PETR4.SA) plunged 7.8 percent on Tuesday a day after the state-controlled oil company reported disappointing third-quarter earnings.

The logo of Brazil's state-run Petrobras oil company is seen on a tank in at Petrobras Paulinia refinery in Paulinia, Brazil July 1, 2017. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

“The downstream segment proved a drag ... as margins contracted on higher crude prices and lower product prices,” Morningstar said in a client note, adding that weak domestic demand fueled a drop in sales volumes.

Goldman Sachs, described the results as negative, reiterating its “sell” rating. Much of the free-cash-flow gains were due to lower capital expenditure, it said, “which although positive from a liquidity point of view, raises questions around the future cash flow sustainability and execution of the company’s five-year plan.”

Petrobras is still struggling to emerge from a crisis spawned by a massive corruption scandal, mismanagement and a deep slump in oil prices.

A $21 billion asset sale plan for this year and next has been hamstrung by court decisions freezing some deals.

On Tuesday, the company said it expects to receive $7 billion from divestments this year, excluding a planned initial public offering for fuel distribution unit BR Distribuidora, below the $8 billion it previously forecast.

But some analysts praised the company’s gains on debt and cash flow, forecasting further gains ahead.

“We see the story improving,” Credit Suisse said in a client note, citing a “good pipeline of divestments” and potential downstream partnerships, as well as higher oil prices and expectations for production growth.

The company said on Tuesday that the planned IPO for BR Distribuidora could still move forward this year. Sources told Reuters that the IPO is expected to be priced in the third week of December.

Petrobras injected 6.3 billion reais ($1.9 billion) into the unit this year to entice investors wary of the distributor’s hefty debts.

Petrobras said Tuesday it expects its final cash balance to reach $21 billion this year, compared with $20 billion in a prior forecast. The company cut debt by 11 percent from the end of 2016, results showed Monday.

Reporting by Marta Nogueira and Alexandra Alper; Additional reporting by Flavia Bohone; Editing by Susan Thomas and Leslie Adler

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