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RIO DE JANEIRO, March 4 (Reuters) - Brazil's Petroleo Brasileiro SA will seek financing of as much as $19 billion this year despite a corruption scandal that cost the state-run oil company its investment grade rating, a source with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters on Wednesday.
Petrobras , as the company is known, agreed in a board meeting to lift the financing limit from $6 billion, but is still working on the structure of the credit operation, said the source, who asked for anonymity because no authorization was given to talk to the press.
The Petrobras press office declined to comment on reports about an increase in financing. It was originally reported late Tuesday by Veja and in the Wednesday edition of the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper. Neither Veja or Estado cited a source by name.
The push to seek more funds abroad marks a change for Petrobras. Until recently, it said it didn't plan to tap international markets in 2015.
Moody's Investors Service stripped Petrobras of its investment grade rating last week and kept the firm on review for further downgrade, citing concerns over an ongoing corruption scandal and liquidity pressures.
The negative outlook suggests the scandal over alleged bribery and money laundering will likely boost borrowing costs. This comes as falling oil prices have already reduced the cash needed to pay rising debt and to finance new production from vast offshore discoveries.
Petrobras, the world's most indebted and least profitable major oil company, has been unable to raise cash in international capital markets as it scrambles to publish financial statements for 2014 that fully reflect corruption-related writedowns and can pass a review by independent auditors. (Reporting by Alonso Soto and Jeb Blount; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)