Petrobras (PBR) Ups 5-Year Investment & Divestment Targets

Scarred by corruption scandal and huge debt burden, Petrobras PBR has been making serious efforts to trim its leverage metrics and boost overall performance. Reportedly, the Brazilian oil giant boosted investment and divestment targets of the five-year plan for the 2019-2023 period, unveiled in December 2018, before Roberto Castello Branco became the CEO from Jan 1, 2019. The Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) company’s committed efforts to improve production, liquidity and operational efficiency, along with ambitious five-year plans make us optimistic about the stock. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Rise in Capital Spending to Boost Output& Growth

The company now plans to invest $105 billion within 2019-2023 versus previous forecast of $84.1 billion. This represents a 41% hike from its projected investment of $74.5 billion through 2018-2022.

The prudent capex program, in sync with ambitious production plans, is likely to boost the company’s top-line growth.Boasting a lucrative portfolio, particularly in Brazil’s pre-salt reservoirs that lie below the Espírito Santo, Campos and Santos basins in deep and ultra-deep waters, Petrobras intends to sharpen focus on these exploration areas. It is entering into various strategic partnerships with foreign oil giants to drive exploration momentum. In this regard, the company has inked deals with major players like TOTAL S.A. TOT, Royal Dutch Shell plc RDS.A and Equinor ASA EQNR.

Very recently, Petrobras took the final investment decision to develop the second phase of the Mero project, located in the Santos Basin. The Mero field is estimated to hold 3-4 billion barrels of oil. Petrobrasis the chief operator of the project with a 40% stake. Other partners include Shell and TOTAL, holding a 20% stake each, along with China National Oil and Gas Exploration and Developmentas well as China National Offshore Oil Corp., owning a 20% interest each.

Boost in Asset Sales to Cut Debt & Optimize Portfolio

As we know, Petrobras’ involvement in the Operation Carwash scandal has been a major overhang for the company, which significantly impacted leverage metrics. However, it has been concentrating on slashing debt load through offloading non-core properties.

As such, Petrobras now aims to raise $35 billion through asset sales within the 2019-2023 time frame versus prior forecast of $26.9 billion. The news comes just a week after the Supreme Court lifted the suspension order on the company that put a pause on its asset divestiture program including the $8.6 billion worth TAG pipeline sale.Marking a major victory for the Bolsonaro government and Petrobras, the court recently ruled that state-held companies do not require congressional approval to jettison their subsidiaries.

Just a couple of days back, Petrobras inked an agreement with the Brazilian antitrust regulator CADE regarding the divestment of eight refining assets in seven states. The deal would encourage greater competition in the industry by attracting new players to the business.

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