Diplomat: Petrobras, YPFB Gas Price Agreement Will Satisfy All

Brazil's federal energy company Petrobras (NYSE: PBR) and Bolivia's state oil firm YPFB are expected to agree a price for Bolivian gas exported to Brazil that will satisfy all parties involved, Pedro Gumucio, the commercial attache at Bolivia's embassy in Brasilia said during a seminar in Sao Paulo on Wednesday.

"The price that will be agreed will be good for Petrobras, Brazil and Bolivia," Gumucio told reporters after the seminar.

Petrobras gas and power director Ildo Sauer partly agreed, saying talks are going smoothly but the outcome will be halfway between what Bolivia's government and Petrobras clients want.

"The result won't be all [the attache] wants nor will it be at the level our industry representative wants," he said. "Dialogue and understanding the reality of the companies involved will lead to a resolution of the problem."

Both Gumucio and Sauer, however, stressed supply is guaranteed and declined to talk specifically about the price being negotiated by a special commission.

Carlos Lopes, a representative from the Brazilian chemicals industry who was also present at the seminar, said investments by most chemicals companies are on hold pending a gas price agreement.

"The chemicals industry accounts for half the industrial gas usage in Brazil," he said. "We need to understand what will happen."

Sauer replied the price agreement would have to strike a balance between what the Brazilian market can accept without turning to competing fuels or raw materials and an adequate rate of return for Petrobras.

"I have my hands tied by minority investors in the NYSE, in the Brazilian bourse and the government that controls us," he said, pointing out Petrobras has recently turned around multibillion losses in the gas and power business and is seeking returns on investment of 8-12%.

Although Gumucio said supply contracts will not be broken, he stressed Bolivia's decision to nationalize the oil and gas industries is aimed at increasing government revenue to improve social conditions in the country.

Bolivia currently exports some 24-26 million cubic meters a day (Mm3/d) of natural gas to Brazil under a 20-year contract signed in 1999 that has a maximum limit of 30Mm3/d.

President Evo Morales decreed the nationalization early May and said the price of gas exported to Brazil would need to be renegotiated because it is too low.

Petrobras and YPFB, however, will continue scheduled talks until the final negotiating round in mid-August in Rio de Janeiro, Sauer said.

"If we don't come to an agreement, we could either extend talks or the party that is not satisfied could ask for the creation of an arbitration court in New York," he said.

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