U.S. Markets close in 1 hr 19 mins

Petrobras, Brazil government expect to resolve dispute within 100 days: minister

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazil's government and state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PETR4.SA) expect to resolve a dispute over the oil producing zone known as the 'transfer-of-rights' area within 100 days, a minister said on Thursday.

A dispute over the oil in the zone, and the price of it, dates back to 2010, when the Brazilian government granted Petrobras the right to extract 5 billion barrels of oil and gas in the offshore Santos Basin. Both the government and Petrobras had claimed to be creditors.

At the swearing-in ceremony for new Petrobras Chief Executive Roberto Castello Branco, incoming Mining and Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque said both sides had determined that Petrobras was the creditor in the dispute.

"Petrobras will be the creditor," Albuquerque told journalists. "What we are discussing is the amount and form of the payment."

Albuquerque's comments were the strongest signal yet that the government of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who took power on Jan. 1, is serious about resolving the long-running dispute, which could result in a windfall for Petrobras of tens of billions of dollars.

At the same ceremony, Castello Branco emphasized Petrobras's need to focus on oil exploration and production, and begin divestments in the refining and natural gas sectors.

Brazil-listed preferred shares in Petrobras began the swearing in ceremony in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday afternoon slightly in the red, but closed up 2.45 percent.


(Reporting by Marta Nogueira and Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Susan Thomas)