UPDATE 2-Brazil gives SBM ultimatum in $250 mln bribery settlement
(Adds no comment from Petrobras, paragraph 3)
By Anthony Boadle
BRASILIA Oct 22 (Reuters) - Brazil has told Dutch SBM Offshore NV, the world's top oil production ship leaser, to agree soon to a $250 million bribery settlement if it wants to regain its biggest client in the world's largest oilship market, a government source told Reuters.
The ultimatum gives SBM several days to sign a leniency deal that includes financial reparation and other clauses such as cooperation with a corruption investigation. The settlement, which has been under negotiation for months, would lift a ban on the Amsterdam-based firm from bidding for new business with Petrobras, Brazil's state-run oil company.
A spokeswoman for SBM declined to comment on the ongoing discussions with Brazilian authorities. Petrobras said it would not comment on the state of play of the negotiations either.
Petrobras, whose officials were accused by Brazilian prosecutors of accepting bribes from SBM representatives in order to win contracts, will receive the proceeds of the deal, gaining badly needed cash to finance expansion and pay debt, the largest in the oil industry.
The government source, who asked not to be named because he is involved in the negotiations, told Reuters on Wednesday that an agreement was very close but there remained a 50-50 chance of the talks folding over difficulties related to a few final clauses.
"We have negotiated endlessly and we gave them an ultimatum: Either we finish now or we break off talks and the company will be penalized," the source said.
The official did not detail the stumbling blocks but he said negotiations had been particularly complex because they involved several parties, including the Comptroller General's office, which is the main negotiator, as well as Rio de Janeiro state prosecutors and Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as the oil company is formally known. Continuación...