UPDATE 4-Brazil's Petrobras vows graft probe; may take writedown
(Adds comment from former executive, updates share performance)
By Jeb Blount
RIO DE JANEIRO Nov 17 (Reuters) - Brazil's state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA vowed on Monday to fully investigate a graft scandal that has knocked its shares lower and saddled President Dilma Rousseff's government with its biggest political crisis.
In their first public comments since a former Petrobras executive was arrested in connection with the scandal last Friday, Chief Executive Officer Maria das Gracas Foster and other company leaders said they had hired legal consultants to investigate the allegations.
Petrobras delayed the release of its third-quarter earnings last week following accusations that the company systematically overpaid for assets and work by contractors. The excess funds were then funneled to political parties including Rousseff's ruling Workers' Party, prosecutors said.
While neither confirming nor denying that such conduct took place, executives said Monday that Petrobras will reassess the value of some assets based on whether bribes were part of the purchase price, and could take accounting losses accordingly.
As a result, fully audited quarterly results might not be available until the end of January, they said.
That raises the prospect of a long period of uncertainty for a company that was once the crown jewel of Brazil's economy, but has in recent years become a symbol of the country's fall from grace.
Petrobras' preferred shares, its most-traded class of stock, fell 3 percent on Friday and shed another 4.5 percent in Sao Paulo on Monday. The shares have lost more than 20 percent this year. Continuación...