Scandal-hit Odebrecht to cut staff, sell assets
OREANDA-NEWS. Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht, Latin America's largest construction firm, plans to cut staff and unload around R12bn ($3.37bn) in assets this year, part of the scandal-linked firm's strategy to reduce costs and raise cash.
The company says hydroelectric and highway assets in Peru and a 15pc stake in Angola's deepwater exploration Block 16 are among the assets it plans to sell this year.
Denmark's Maersk holds a 50pc operating stake in Block 16. Angola's Sonangol holds 20pc and US firm Devon holds the remaining 15pc.
In 2015, Odebrecht cut around 70,000 from its group staff of more than 276,000.
The company is alleged to be one of the leaders of a cartel that siphoned money from inflated contracts with Brazil's state-controlled Petrobras.
One of the main targets of the colossal Lava Jato investigation into systemic corruption at Petrobras, Odebrecht has been defending itself against multiple claims of corruption and money laundering.
The company's former chief executive Marcelo Odebrecht and other executives have already been convicted of corruption, and more charges are expected to be filed as multiple investigations proceed.
Federal police allege the company maintained an "anti-compliance" division responsible for handling bribe payments to public officials. Brazilian federal prosecutors are seeking around $2bn in damages from Odebrecht and a ban from public-sector bidding and tax benefits.
The company has denied any wrongdoing but last month said it had decided to collaborate with the Lava Jato probe. Federal prosecutors say the company has yet to initiate plea deal negotiations.
Brazil's federal comptroller says the firm has started negotiating a leniency agreement that would allow it to resume bidding on public contracts, one of a handful of companies working on such deals.
Odebrecht's close relationship with top Brazilian politicians, including former president Luiz In?cio Lula da Silva, have helped fuel the political and economic crisis that has virtually paralyzed Brazil and threatens to unseat president Dilma Rousseff.
Rousseff, chairwoman of Petrobras in 2003-10, is facing impeachment proceedings in Brazil's congress over claims of fiscal maneuvers unrelated to corruption at Petrobras.
A tentatively scheduled 14 April vote in Brazil's lower house of congress will determine whether the impeachment process should move forward.