Petrobras Abandons Argentine Unit Sale on Shale Energy Allure

Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PETR4), the world’s biggest oil producer in deep waters, is no longer pursuing plans to sell its Argentine unit following shale oil discoveries in the South American nation.

Petrobras is focusing on “exploration and production” in Argentina after failing to sell the assets last year and may hire new employees for the division, even as it seeks to shrink its refining, distribution and electricity businesses in the country, Chief Executive Officer Maria das Gracas Foster said in a press conference today in Rio de Janeiro. Petrobras is the majority stakeholder in Petrobras Argentina SA which is listed in Buenos Aires and New York.

The focus on Argentine shale is part of Petrobras’s efforts to increase production from its remaining deposits in Africa, the U.S. and Latin America. The company sold assets in all three regions as part of a divestment plan that was completed in 2013, Foster said. In May, Petrobras announced that it had rejected all offers for Petrobras Argentina following at least four months of talks as all bids fell short of expectations.

Petrobras in December announced a shale oil discovery at the Rincon de Aranda field in the Vaca Muerta deposit. Argentina has the world’s fourth-largest shale oil reserves, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In January it sold it’s stake in the Puesto Hernandez field to YPF SA for $41 million.

Petrobras Argentina fell 0.6 percent to 4.96 pesos per share in Buenos Aires trading. The company’s American depositary receipts fell 0.6 percent to $4.77 at 3:09 p.m. in New York.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rodrigo Orihuela in Rio de Janeiro at rorihuela@bloomberg.net

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

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