(Adds comments from Odebrecht)
By Tatiana Bautzer and Guillermo Parra-Bernal
SAO PAULO, March 11 (Reuters) - Grupo Odebrecht SA , Latin America’s largest engineering conglomerate, is considering selling its stake in petrochemical producer Braskem SA, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the situation.
Odebrecht, controlled by the namesake millionaire Brazilian family, could exit Braskem in a joint transaction with state-controlled oil producer Petroleo Brasileiro SA, said the sources, who requested anonymity because the plan remains under study.
Odebrecht, which has a 38 percent stake in Braskem but 50.1 percent of the voting shares, denied in an e-mailed statement to Reuters any intention of selling its stake in Braskem.
Petrobras decided to sell a 36 percent stake in Braskem in January and is being advised by investment banking firm Banco Bradesco BBI, the sources said.
Since then, at least three companies have shown interest on the stake: Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management Inc, Saudi Arabian Oil Co, known as Saudi Aramco, and an unidentified Chinese petrochemical firm, according to the first two sources.
But the Petrobras process has stalled as acquirers wait for a decision by Odebrecht about plans for its stake. A sale of the majority of Braskem would be easier and could fetch a higher price, the same sources added.
But Odebrecht in a second e-mailed statement to Reuters said, “Since the company has no intention of selling its majority stake, it makes no sense attributing to the company responsibility for the delay in Petrobras’ stake sale.” Petrobras declined to comment.
At current market prices, the combined value of the stake that Petrobras and Odebrecht have in Braskem, Latin America’s largest maker of resins, is worth 11.1 billion reais ($3.05 billion), according to Thomson Reuters Data.
A precondition for the Petrobras stake sale is that Odebrecht accepts the buyer as partner in Braskem. Odebrecht’s indecision has the Petrobras process paralyzed, the two sources added.
Salvador, Brazil-based Odebrecht is currently under investigation in Brazil for its involvement in a graft and influence-peddling scandal known as “Operation Car Wash.” Family member Marcelo Bahia Odebrecht, who ran the company since 2008 until recent months, was sentenced on Tuesday to about 19 years in prison in connection with the scandal.
The scandal has undercut Odebrecht’s access to financing, and the group - which has more than a dozen business units - is currently seeking to ease a swelling debt burden. ($1 = 3.6338 Brazilian reais) (Editing by Nick Zieminski and Cynthia Osterman)