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(Recasts to add Itaú BBA handling some deals, share performances)
SAO PAULO, March 17 (Reuters) - State-controlled Petróleo Brasileiro SA has hired Itaú BBA SA to handle the sale of gasoline stations and assets in the natural gas distribution sector, as the company seeks to raise $13.7 billion from the disposal of non-core assets, a source with knowledge of the matter said on Tuesday.
Itaú BBA will help Petrobras fully or partially exit the natural gas distribution sector and sell hundreds of gasoline stations it owns in Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay and Uruguay, said the source, who requested anonymity since the arrangement has not been made public.
Asset sales became imperative for Petrobras after Moody's Investors Service stripped the company of its investment-grade rating and warned that further cuts are possible. Rio de Janeiro-based Petrobras also moved as fallout from a massive corruption scandal curbed access to capital market funding.
Prosecutors have alleged that allies of President Dilma Rousseff used Petrobras to skim billions of reais through overpriced contracts in political campaign kickbacks for over a decade.
Petrobras did not have an immediate comment on the planned asset sales. Itaú BBA, the wholesale and investment-banking unit of Itaú Unibanco Holding SA, declined to comment.
Earlier Tuesday, newspaper Folha de S. Paulo reported that Petrobras hired Itaú BBA and rival Bradesco BBI to handle some of the planned asset sales. Bradesco BBI, a unit of Banco Bradesco SA was picked to manage the disposal of 21 thermal electricity plants and the sale of a stake in Petrobras Distribuidora, the owner of more than 7,500 gasoline stations in the country.
The size of that stake has not yet been decided, the paper reported. Potential sales of stakes in some oil fields are being considered, with Bank of America Merrill Lynch among candidates to handle the deals, Folha said.
Reuters reported last month that JPMorgan Chase & Co had landed one of the mandates.
Preferred shares of Petrobras gained 0.7 percent on Tuesday. (Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jeffrey Benkoe)