March 20, 2019 / 3:12 PM / 5 months ago

Exclusive: Trident Energy takes lead in Petrobras oilfield sale - sources

RIO DE JANEIRO/SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Warburg Pincus-backed firm Trident Energy is in exclusive talks with Petroleo Brasileiro SA to acquire a pair of Brazilian oil clusters, two sources with knowledge of the matter said this week, as the state-run company known as Petrobras moves to revive the sale effort.

FILE PHOTO: A man walks in front of the Brazil's state-run Petrobras oil company headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

Petrobras had agreed in July to enter into exclusive talks with Ouro Preto Oleo e Gas, a Brazilian energy company backed by private equity firm EIG Global Energy Partners, to sell its Pampo and Enchova shallow water oil clusters off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.

At the time, the clusters were expected to fetch around $1 billion. However, Ouro Preto reduced its offer and Petrobras walked away, Reuters reported in January.

Petrobras has since entered exclusive talks with Trident Energy, which had bid for the fields in 2018 but did not enter into direct talks with Petrobras because its offer was below Ouro Preto’s offer, according to the sources.

Trident was set up by former executives of independent Anglo-French oil firm Perenco in 2016. Its portfolio is comprised of production assets located in Equatorial Guinea. An acquisition of the Pampo and Enchova clusters in Brazil’s Campos Basin would mark its first foothold outside of Africa.

Petrobras and Trident did not respond to requests for comment.

Petrobras is currently divesting a wide range of mature onshore and offshore oilfields, among other assets, in a bid to cut debt and refocus on Brazil’s promising deepwater ‘pre-salt’ play. Last week, Petrobras CEO Roberto Castello Branco said he expected the company would complete $10 billion in divestments in the first four months of 2019.

The quick pivot to Trident after the collapse of talks with Ouro Preto illustrates the resolve of Petrobras to push ahead with those asset disposals. The often complex sales have proceeded in fits and starts.

Should Petrobras and Trident come to terms, the sources said, Petrobras will likely hold a final rebidding round, in which competing parties, including Ouro Preto, can submit final bids of varying values for Pampo and Enchova, so long as those bids have the same contractual terms as any agreement with Trident.

Together, Pampo and Enchova produced almost 39,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, according to July figures, making it the largest mature production asset in Petrobras’ divestment portfolio.

Reporting by Gram Slattery and Carolina Mandl; Editing by David Gregorio

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