April 4, 2017 / 9:24 PM / 2 years ago

Petrobras says Exxon expressed 'strong interest' in pre-salt oil

Brazil's state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA Chief Executive Officer Pedro Parente talks during a news conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, January 11, 2017. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - U.S. oil company Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) expressed to Brazil’s state-controlled company Petrobras (PETR4.SA) “strong interest” in the exploration of deep-water oil fields off the Brazilian coast, Petrobras Chief Executive Pedro Parente said on Tuesday.

“Considering movements towards a strategic partnership, we have nothing concrete with Exxon, but they have certainly expressed strong interest in the Brazilian pre-salt exploration,” Parente told reporters.

Earlier on Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Exxon was in talks to gain access to Brazil’s deep-water oil resources, citing people familiar with the matter.

Petroleo Brasileiro Sa Petrobras, familiarly known as Petrobras, and Exxon initially declined to comment on the report, but later Parente briefly spoke about it on his way out of a seminar in Sao Paulo.

Exxon is one of the few major oil companies still with no presence in the exploration of the recently discovered large fields off the coast of Brazil.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSa.L) sharply increased its operations in the area after acquiring BG Group last year. French oil major Total SA (TOTF.PA) did the same recently by closing a strategic partnership with Petrobras.

Norway’s Statoil ASA STL.OL has also bought stakes in the oil region.

Petrobras is looking for partners for some of its projects. Earlier on Tuesday Parente said pre-salt yields have been above the company’s expectations, boosting Petrobras cash generation and helping the company to cut its debt load, still one of the highest in the global oil industry at slightly below $100 billion.

Reporting by Laís Martins; Writing by Marcelo Teixeira

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