UPDATE 3-Units of Brazil's OAS file for bankruptcy protection amid scandal
(Adds plans for debtor-in-possession loan, debt, details on asset sales throughout)
By Guillermo Parra-Bernal
SAO PAULO, March 31 (Reuters) - Brazilian engineering conglomerate Grupo OAS requested court protection from creditors for nine of its units on Tuesday as it grapples with fallout from a corruption scandal at state-controlled Petróleo Brasileiro SA, a major customer.
The move was endorsed by the group's biggest creditors and was seen as a prerequisite to restructure part of the 8 billion reais ($2.48 billion) that OAS owes to banks, suppliers and bondholders, executives told Reuters. Plans to obtain a debtor-in-possession loan from creditors and talks to sell three key assets to repay debt are "in an advanced stage," they added.
The filing came after Grupo OAS struggled for months with the impact of a corruption investigation at Petrobras, as the state oil company is known, which undercut the builder's access to financing. An economic downturn, government austerity and a slumping currency also took a toll on OAS in recent months.
OAS follows rivals Alumini Engenharia SA and Galvão Engenharia SA, which filed for bankruptcy protection in recent months as the scandal escalated. Prosecutors say the three firms were part of a cartel of about two dozen firms that paid bribes to Petrobras executives and politicians in exchange for contracts.
A massive disposal of assets and the recapitalization of the group's construction unit will become the cornerstone of a recovery plan that Grupo OAS will present to creditors within 60 days. Grupo OAS was founded in 1976 by contractor Cesar Mata Pires and his partners in the northeastern city of Salvador.
"Once this process is over, we will have a healthier, sharply focused and smaller firm," Fabio Yonamine, president of investment holding company OAS Investimentos, said in an interview.
Under terms of the petition, which OAS filed in a São Paulo state court on Tuesday, the company sought creditor protection for Construtora OAS SA, OAS SA, OAS Imóveis SA, SPE Gestão e Exploração de Arenas Multiuso, OAS Empreendimentos SA, OAS Infraestrutura SA, OAS Investments Ltd, OAS Investments GmbH e OAS Finance Ltd. Continuación...