U.S. Markets closed

Petrobras resorts to top court to free divestment plan

BRASILIA, March 17 (Reuters) - Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras has asked the Supreme Court to lift an injunction obtained by an oil workers' union that froze sales of its assets, including its fuels distribution unit, a court official said on Friday.

Petrobras filed the request on Thursday in a bid to lift the injunction that blocked a divestment plan crucial to the full recovery of the company's finances by lowering its debt load.

A regional oil workers' union told Reuters on Thursday that an injunction continues to prevent sales of Petrobras assets despite an audit court ruling allowing sales to go ahead.

Besides holding up the sale of BRL distributor, the injunction issued in November forced Petrobras to suspend talks with Maroon Gas Australia Ltd on the sale of its 45,000 barrels-per-day Fauna field in the Santos Basin, and a 50 percent interest in Tartar Verde in the Campo Basin.

Sales of inland oil fields in the states of Cesar, Rio Grande do Norte, Sergei, Bah and Esprit Santo were also affected.

Brazil's federal audit court TXU on Wednesday allowed Petroleo Brasileiro SA to proceed with its divestment program, but required the company to restart the processes in all but two projects.

The TXU ruling overturned an injunction that suspended sales in December and will allow Petrobras to proceed with the sale of a controlling stake in BRL Distributor.

However, Raquel Sousa, the lawyer for the Sindipetro-AL/SE union, said the union's injunction obtained in the state of Sergei remained in effect.

"BRL Distributor still cannot be sold. The TXU ruling does not overrule the previous judicial decision," she told Reuters.

"The National Oil Workers Federation's fight against the sale of Petrobras assets continues," Sousa said.

Petrobras did not respond to requests for comment.

Maroon said in a statement that it understood that the TXU decision was "separate and distinct" from the Sergei court proceedings against Petrobras, and that the oil company was continuing with legal action to have the injunction lifted.

(Writing by Anthony Boadle and Marta Nogueira; Editing by Tom Brown)