Brazil's Petrobras shakes up trading unit amid increasing exports

RIO DE JANEIRO/HOUSTON, July 2 (Reuters) - Brazil’s Petroleo Brasileiro SA is reorganizing its trading business, the company told Reuters on Monday, as the state-run oil firm seeks to best take advantage of an expected increase in oil and gas exports.

Petrobras, as the company is widely known, is dividing its marketing and trading division into a domestic unit and an international unit, the company said in a statement, after two sources told Reuters of the changes.

“Petrobras is splitting its Marketing and Trading area into Trading in Foreign Markets (CME) and Trading in Domestic Markets (CMI),” the company said. “The change aims to align Petrobras with movements in the sector and bring more synergies, innovation and agility to its trading unit.”

Petrobras is ramping up oil and gas production in Brazil’s so-called pre-salt area, located off the nation’s southeastern coast, which in turn has led the firm to eye new export markets.

In May, Reuters reported that Petrobras would store crude in China to better respond to immediate demand by local refineries. Last week, Petrobras’ head of downstream operations said exports could increase by over a third “in the coming years.”

While Petrobras’ trading area has been divided principally by product - such as crude and various fuels - the main division will now be between domestic and international markets, said the sources, who requested anonymity as they were not permitted to speak publicly.

The reorganization also comes as Petrobras’ trading operation confronts a major corruption scandal that has engulfed major commodities trading houses, including Glencore PLC , Trafigura, Mercuria Energy Group and Vitol SA.

In December, Brazilian prosecutors charged 14 people, including six former Petrobras employees, with taking part in a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud Petrobras.

In June, Reuters reported that Petrobras managers, at least one of whom is still at the company, ignored previous warnings from employees about a fuel broker who prosecutors now say was a key actor in the scheme. (Reporting by Gram Slattery in Rio de Janeiro and Collin Eaton in Houston; editing by Jonathan Oatis)