Petrobras's Oil Declines Lure Gradin Family Offshore

The Brazilian billionaire Gradin family is spending $500 million on three offshore vessels to help Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PETR3), the biggest oil producer in deep waters, reverse declining output at its biggest production zone.

GranEnergia, owned by the Gradin family through its GranInvestimentos holding company, already has a four-year contract with state-controlled Petrobras to refurbish and repair aging platforms in the Campos Basin that supplies 80 percent of Brazil’s oil, President Miguel Gradin said in an interview in Rio de Janeiro. The company is negotiating with banks to finance 80 percent of the $150 million support vessel, he said.

The Rio de Janeiro-based logistics and oil services company has ordered an additional two vessels that it may deploy in Brazil, the Gulf of Mexico or West Africa as it looks to compete with established suppliers including Prosafe SE (PRS) and Floatel International Ltd. GranEnergia may turn to bond markets to finance the second vessel, Gradin said. It will only consider seeking equity partners after 2015, he said.

GranEnergia has won work with Rio-based Petrobras at a time when the world’s most indebted major oil company is looking for ways to improve efficiency and curb cost growth. The cheapest way for Petrobras to increase output fast is to improve extraction at areas where it has been pumping for years, Gradin said. Last year, Petrobras started a $5.6 billion program to improve efficiency at its Campos Basin operations where output has dropped 7 percent in the past two years.

“Last year we tried to find out the needs of the client,” Gradin said at his offices in Rio. “The opportunities are to help them with production efficiency at existing fields.”

Petrobras didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment on the contract with GranEnergia.

35 Platforms

Petrobras’s program at Campos includes 35 “aging” platforms GranEnergia will help service with a support vessel that will begin operating in April, Gradin said. GranEnergia won the work as some of Petrobras’s traditional suppliers including Halliburton Co. (HAL) and Baker Hughes Inc. are reducing staff in Brazil as the producer shifts to repairing old wells from drilling new ones.

“The future is going to be the next phase, not only developing but taking care of old assets,” Gradin said. “We have a lot to do.”

The Gradin family, headed by Miguel’s father Victor, is worth at least $1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, based on its 20.6 percent stake in Odebrecht SA. The company, Brazil’s biggest construction firm, had gross revenues of 84.4 billion reais in 2012.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Millard in Rio de Janeiro at pmillard1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Attwood at jattwood3@bloomberg.net

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