New chapters in the corruption scandal involving Braskem SA's two biggest stakeholders and the possibility of state-run oil company Petrobras selling its stake in the company have added to uncertainties regarding the future of Brazil's biggest material supplier for the plastics industry.
Brazilian newspaper Valor Economico reported July 6 that state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, could sell its stake in Braskem as part of its divestiture plan, if it finds an interested buyer.
Petrobras announced in June it will sell assets worth $15.1 billion in 2015-16, and another $42.6 billion in 2017-18. The company is trying to improve financial results after posting a net loss of 21.6 billion Brazilian real ($6.7 billion) in 2014, and a write down of BRL 6.2 billion ($1.9 billion) linked to losses attributed to the corruption scandal.
Selling its stake in Braskem would make sense for Petrobras, as the oil company has emphasized a desire to focus on core business that does not include petrochemicals, Cássia Inez, an analyst with Rio de Janeiro-based consultancy Lopes Filho, told Plastics News.
But to do that, Braskem and Petrobras must resolve a thorny issue involving naphtha contracts between them, she said.
Braskem buys most of its naphtha from Petrobras and is the largest supplier for the local chemical industry. Since last year, when its latest long-term contract with Petrobras expired, Braskem has been trying to reach an agreement with the oil company over naphtha pricing for a new long-term deal.
“The first thing that has to be resolved is the issue about the naphtha contract with Braskem. The last extension [to the expired contract] will end, and for Petrobras to sell its stake, it will have to solve this first,” Inez said.
Inez said while Braskem executives have been transparent about conducting internal investigations, there is always uncertainty about new facts that might arise during the Petrobras probe.
Petrobras is one of Braskem's largest stakeholders, with a 36.1 percent stake in its total capital. Odebrecht Servicos e Participacoes SA has another 38.3 percent.
Valor Economico's report did not name sources for the information in its story, but said that by selling Braskem, Petrobras would resolve a problem of having to negotiate naphtha prices with a client in which it is also a partner.
Petrobras told Plastics News July 6 it does not comment on “hypothetical negotiations.” Braskem declined to comment.
Many Petrobras' executives and Odebrecht CEO Marcelo Odebrecht have been arrested as part of the corruption probe, which is investigating overpricing contracts at the oil company and payoffs to executives and government officials. Marcelo Odebrecht also is chairman of Braskem's board of directors.
A former Petrobras executive, Paulo Roberto da Costa, said in testimony published in March that Braskem had paid bribes of $5 million per year from 2006 to 2012 to guarantee better price conditions in raw materials contracts.