The fall of the Dilma Rousseff (PT) government in 2016 marked a change in Petrobras’ strategy, which began to sell businesses to private companies, generating billions of dollars for these companies, such as PetroRio and 3R Petroleum. 3R’s revenue, for example, rose 3.5 times, going from R$204 billion to R$727 billion in one year. PetroRio’s profit almost tripled, from R$450 million to R$1.3 billion in one year.
Since 2016, Petrobras has a sales plan for non-essential businesses. The initiative is part of the project to reduce the company’s debt. Analysts say there is a bright side, because the state-owned company obtains resources to invest in profitable areas, such as the pre-salt. But they also point out that there is a lack of investment in areas such as refining, which could help reduce fuel prices in the country. Petrobras says it invests more than it disinvests and is looking for areas of greater return (see Petrobras’ comment at the end of this text).
Who won from the sales?
Petrobras has already disposed of BRL 243 billion in assets through about 70 transactions. The main businesses sold were mature oil fields, that is, exploration sites over 25 years old with around 70% of the stock already extracted, refineries and fuel distributors.
From the sale of mature oil fields, two companies had positive results: PetroRio and 3R petroleum. Vibra, which is the former BR Distribuidora, also shows good numbers.
See the result of some businesses that were sold:
THE PetroRio acquired 30% of the Frade field from Petrobras in 2021 for around R$500 million (US$100 million). In the first quarter of this year, the location was responsible for about 57% of the company’s revenue, which was R$ 1.5 billion (US$ 309 million), according to the company’s balance sheet.
Last year, the field was responsible for around 50% of the R$4.4 billion in revenue, with the 30% purchased from Petrobras representing around R$660 million.
3R Petroleum, another private oil company, bought the fields at the Rio Ventura hub for around BRL 470 million (US$ 94.2 million) in 2021. Today, the fields are responsible for around 16% of the BRL 375 million company’s revenue, that is, around R$ 51 million.
In addition, 3R purchased, in February this year, the Polo Potiguar, from Petrobras, located in the Potiguar Basin, in Rio Grande do Norte, for R$ 6.9 billion (US$ 1.38 billion). It should be in full operation soon.
Companies take advantage of Petrobras’ plan
“These two companies were created precisely to buy mature fields. It was already a known strategy, Petrobras had already announced that it was going to disband, and people in the sector saw the creation of companies to make money,” said Flávio Conde, an analyst at Levante.
According to Sidney Lima, an analyst at Top Gain, the acquisitions of mature fields by the companies mean that both are courted by market agents, with profitable balance sheets.
“Such movements benefit both in terms of production capacity, which consequently increases revenue and is reflected in the balance sheet,” he said.
No wonder, PetroRio and 3R Petroleum’s shares have already appreciated 33% and 38% this year, respectively. PetroRio’s largest individual shareholder is the Aventti Strategic Partners fund, while 3R’s is the manager Starboard.
Another of the main assets sold was BR, a fuel distributor, for around R$12 billion last year.
The company, renamed Vibra, has as its main shareholder the fund Samambaia Master Fundo, controlled by the investor and former banker Ronaldo Cézar Coelho, has already made a profit of R$ 2.5 billion last year alone.
Couldn’t Petrobras have kept businesses and profited from them?
Despite the improvement in Petrobras’ sales balance, there are experts who see problems. Juliane Furno, PhD in economics from Unicamp (State University of Campinas) and chief economist at IREE (Institute for Reform of State-Enterprise Relations), says that the state-owned company neglects the company’s social function.
“All of this is very bad for society. Society wants a Petrobras that makes and distributes profits, but that fulfills its social function, which in this case is to ensure energy security, which is not only to guarantee the physical existence of the sector, but affordable prices. For that, Petrobras should retain part of the profits generated to invest, and not divest”, he said.
For Rodrigo Glatt, a partner at the manager GTI, the departure of the assets made the company work to reallocate capital, allowing profits, but also the payment of dividends and taxes to the Union.
“The benefit for the company was exceptional, as it got out of a gigantic debt and has a very healthy balance sheet, allowing it to pay stratospheric dividends. The wealth and taxes that Petrobras generates, helping the government’s surplus in recent years, also are very good,” he said.
According to Flávio Conde, an analyst at Levante, Petrobras has been making more profit by focusing only on the oil fields it currently owns.
“These companies will have the same return that Petrobras would have, but Petrobras earns more with the same money by investing in new fields and increasing pre-salt production. So it’s capital optimization,” he said.
“Petrobras has been making divestments, selling distributors and more mature oil fields to newer companies, and has also been trying to sell refineries. deep. That’s why we’ve seen record and growing results since 2016,” said Glatt.
Good performance by Petrobras after sales
According to experts consulted by the UOLwith a focus on the pre-salt layer, Petrobras managed to reduce costs and expand production, which, with the increase in international oil prices, increased the company’s profit.
In the first quarter of this year, Petrobras had a net profit of R$ 44.561 billion, a performance 3,718.4% higher than in the same period last year.
In addition, the state-owned company’s gross debt fell to R$317.7 billion in September 2021, compared to R$435 billion in 2015.
For Juliane Furno, however, the sales made the state-owned company stop investing, even generating a rise in fuel prices.
“There is no need to be so fast in the company’s deleveraging. Petrobras has no financing problem, the agencies [de classificação de risco] they look not at the size of the debt, but at the oil reserves, and Petrobras has a lot of that. And it has a lot because it invested,” he said.
“But right now, what Brazil needs is investment, especially in refining capacity, so that we can reduce the amount of fuel imported and become less hostage to international prices and exchange rate variations,” he added.
Petrobras says it invests in profitable areas
Sought, Petrobras said in a note that “it invests more than it disinvests”. According to the company, the divestment strategy “is important, as it allows Petrobras to focus its investments on the areas with the greatest possibility of return”, he informed.
“This enables more investments and increased revenues for states and municipalities, with a positive impact on local economic activity.”
O UOL also sought out the other companies mentioned, but they declined to comment.