SAO PAULO/RIO DE JANEIRO — The Brazilian bankers that joined forces last decade to form Latin America’s largest lender were seeking to buy control of the country’s giant fuel distribution business from Petrobras, people with direct knowledge of the matter said.
The Setubal and Vilella families’ Itausa Investimentos Itau and the Moreira Salles family’s Cambuhy Investimentos were planning to make a joint bid for a controlling stake in Petrobras’s BR Distribuidora in a deal that could reach $6bn, the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions were private.
Vitol Group, the world’s largest independent oil trader, and private equity firms GP Investimentos and Advent International were also considering an offer, the sources said.
Petrobras had started sending material with information on the unit to prospective partners, the company said in a filing on Monday. Binding offers would be made in 2017, CEO Pedro Parente said on September 21. The company aims to sell 51% of BR Distribuidora’s voting shares.
Petrobras did not reply to requests for comment after business hours. Itausa, Cambuhy, Vitol, Advent and GP declined
Petrobras, the most indebted major oil producer, is speeding up asset sales as Parente seeks to put the state-run company back on its feet. After announcing $9.8bn in asset sales since 2015, mostly after Parente took over the helm, the producer aims to raise at least another $5.3bn by December and $19.5bn in 2017 and 2018.
A group led by Brookfield Asset Management agreed to buy a 90% stake in Nova Transportadora do Sudeste, Petrobras’s natural gas distribution unit, for about $5.2bn, Brookfield said on September 23.
The Setubal and Moreira Salles families agreed to merge their banks in 2008 to form Itau Unibanco Holding, currently worth about $63bn, making it the largest lender in the region by market value. Some of the other investors might form a consortium to vie for the BR Distribuidora stake, sources said.
“Most of Itausa’s holdings are Itau’s shares, so investors who buy the stock are interested in the banking sector, not fuel distribution,” said Vitor Suzaki, an analyst at Lerosa Investimentos.