* Petrobras net debt more than 3.5 times EBITDA in 2013
* Company debt is well above company’s target limit
* Committee asks managers to provide timely information
RIO DE JANEIRO, March 15 (Reuters) - Petroleo Brasileiro SA , should make strong efforts to cut its debt or risk a credit downgrade that could saddle investment plans with increased costs, the finance committee of the state-run oil company’s board of directors said.
Net debt, or debt minus cash and liquid short-term securities, rose to more than 3.5 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) in 2013, a level more than 40 percent above the company’s own target limit of 2.5 times EBITDA.
EBITDA is a key measure of a company’s ability to generate cash from operations to finance investments and pay debt. The committee’s comments were made at a Feb. 25 meeting and published in a Brazilian regulatory filing on Friday.
With $114.3 billion of debt at the end of 2013, Petrobras, as the company is known, is the world’s most indebted large oil company, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Petrobras’ rising debt, sparked by government fuel-price controls and resulting losses on growing imports of gasoline and diesel, has raised concern that the company may have trouble paying for its $221 billion five-year investment plan, the world’s largest corporate spending program.
“The members recommend that the administration of the company enliven its efforts to reduce the leverage of Petrobras, keeping in mind that the deterioration of this multiple puts the company’s actual credit rating at risk which could affect both the volume and cost of future borrowing to finance the company’s investment plans,” the committee wrote in underlined and bold text as part of their review of the company’s 2013 accounts.
In October, Moody’s Investors Service cut the rating on Petrobras long-term foreign currency debt to “Baa1” from A3. Debt in Moody’s Baa range “is subject to medium credit risk” and “may posses certain speculative characteristics.” While still “investment grade,” Baa1 is the highest rated debt with speculative aspects, according to Moody‘s.
On Tuesday Petrobras sold $8.5 billion of fixed and floating rate bonds due between 2020 and 2044 to help finance its investment plan.
Petrobras needs to spend large amounts of money to develop giant new offshore oil resources discovered in deep water south of Rio de Janeiro. Brazil hopes to more than double output to about 5 million barrels a day by the end of the decade, making it one of the world’s largest producers.
The Petrobras finance committee also told administrators to make a better effort to provide its members with results in a timely matter so that they could be properly reviewed before recommendations are made to the board. (Reporting by Jeb Blount; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)