RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 24 (Reuters) - A Brazilian court struck down an injunction suspending the sale by state-led oil company Petrobras of a 49 percent stake in its Gaspetro natural-gas distribution unit to Japan’s Mitsui & Co., Petrobras said in a statement obtained on Wednesday.
Appeals judge Kassio Marques of the Federal Regional Court of the First Region ruled Tuesday that allegations that the sale was not subject to an open public sale process were not true.
Marques said in the ruling that the suspension of the sale undermined the autonomy of Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as Petrobras is formally known, and its ability to implement its widely publicized five-year plan.
Petrobras sold the stake to Mitsui for 1.93 billion reais in December. Jose Gama Neves, a member of Brazil’s Democrats Party, filed suit on behalf of the people of Brazil’s Bahia sate.
Some in the state were concerned that sale could undermine the Bahia-state government’s 51 percent controlling stake in Bahiagas, a natural gas utility in which Gaspetro owns 24.5 percent. Mitsui owned 24.5 percent in Bahiagas before it bought its Gaspetro stake.
The Gaspetro stake sale is part of a plan announced more than a year ago to sell about $15 billion of Petrobras assets by the end of 2016. The assets are being sold to help reduce the company’s nearly $125 billion of debt, the largest in the world oil industry.
The ruling by appeals judge Marques is itself subject to appeal. Neves, the politician who launched the lawsuit against the sale was not immediately available for comment.
$1 = 3.23 Brazilian reais Reporting by Jeb Blount; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama