Petrobras sells 90% stake in gas pipeline for $8.6 billion

By Cristiane Lucchesi and Francois de Beaupuy on 4/7/2019
Director Bente Nyland presents the report "Petroleum Activity in the High North" in Hammerfest. Photo: Norwegian Petroleum Directorate.

SAO PAULO and PARIS (Bloomberg) -- France’s Engie SA and Canadian pension fund Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec have agreed to buy Petroleo Brasileiro SA's 90% stake in a natural gas pipeline unit for $8.6 billion.

Engie and the Caisse prevailed after multiple rounds of bidding for the unit, known as TAG, beating out Macquarie Group Ltd. and a joint bid from EIG Global Energy Partners and Mubadala Development Co. It is the biggest-ever single asset sale for Petrobras, whose new CEO has sought to speed divestitures that began years ago, when the state-run energy giant briefly became the world’s most indebted oil company.

Engie has been selling oil and coal assets in recent years to fund investment in wind and solar power, energy efficiency services, and gas and power networks, betting that they offer faster growth prospects and more predictable returns. The company, which operates the biggest part of France’s gas network, has said that it could use its expertise to develop TAG, which should benefit from growing demand for the fuel in Brazil.

, as TAG is also known, operates a 2,800-mi (4,500-km) pipeline network that spans 10 states in northern Brazil. The sale price includes $800 million to pay TAG’s debt to Brazil National Development Bank, or BNDES, the company said in a statement Friday. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals.

Engie led the bidding after the first round, with the highest offer of about $8 billion including debt. Petrobras later held a final round of bidding after releasing Engie’s terms, giving all parties the chance to offer a higher price.

Under new management since the election of President Jair Bolsonaro, Petrobras is looking to offload about $27 billion of assets to help it slash debt and focus more resources on its core offshore crude production. Petrobras shares rose 1.1% to $7.43 (28.78 reais) in Sao Paulo.

"We need to raise returns for shareholders, and fast," CEO Roberto Castello Branco said in an interview in March.

When the transaction is completed, Engie will have a 58.5% stake in TAG while the Caisse will own 31.5%, the companies said in a statement.

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