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SAO PAULO/RIO DE JANEIRO, July 22 (Reuters) - Brazil's Petróleo Brasileiro SA said on Friday it plans to sell voting control of Petrobras Distribuidora SA after a bidding round for a minority stake in the fuels retailer failed to attract bids that met the state-controlled oil company's needs.
Petrobras now plans to keep no more than 49 percent of the voting capital of BR Distribuidora, as the fuels unit is known, while remaining the largest shareholder of the company, according to a securities filing and company comments in a conference call.
Petrobras is trying to sell BR Distribuidora, Brazil's largest fuels distributor, as part of a plan to sell $15 billion of assets by the end of this year. It is selling assets to reduce its debt, the largest of any oil company, in the face of a financial crisis caused by a corruption scandal and falling oil prices
Petrobras said on Friday it would maintain its dominant share of fuel-unit profits by keeping a large stake in non-voting, preferred shares. It expects bids by the end of the year.
"We see this model as the best way to get a good price for the company and maintain a share of profits," said Anelise Quintão Lara, general manager of mergers and acquisitions at the Rio de Janeiro-based company.
The model could lead to a future initial public offering of shares in the fuels unit, she said.
Reuters reported on Tuesday that the company was inclined toward selling control of BR Distribuidora to garner a higher valuation.
According to one source with direct knowledge of the matter, the company wants to keep 100 percent of preferred shares in BR Distribuidora so it can profit from the results of a change of management in the future.
Petrobras announced the sale model after rejecting three bids that it considered too low. The company wanted 30 billion to 40 billion reais for BR Distribuidora and the offers taken as a result of the previous sale process were in the 10 billion to 15 billion real range, Reuters reported.
Quintão Lara declined to comment on bid values or the value Petrobras expects for a BR Distribuidora sale.
The company had 118 billion reais ($36 billion) in revenue last year and owns Brazil's No. 1 gasoline station network.
Preferred shares of Petrobras, the company's most widely traded class of stock, gained 1.9 percent to 11.77 reais, while common shares added 1.1 percent to 13.81 reais. Both stocks are up 76 percent and 61 percent this year, respectively.
$1 = 3.2559 Brazilian reais Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Tatiana Bautzer in Sao Paulo, Jeb Blount and Marta Nogueira in Rio de Janeiro; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Leslie Adler