Brazil’s ill-fated rig-chartering entity Sete Brasil has delayed a tender for the sale of four out of 28 ultra-deepwater drilling units that were originally contracted by state-controlled Petrobras.

Sete Brasil was due to receive bids this week for the unfinished semi-submersible rigs Urca and Frade and the unfinished drillships Arpoador and Guarapari, but the date was moved back to 28 March.

The four drilling units are the closest to completion among the 28. Finding buyers could mitigate losses faced by Sete Brasil’s financial backers and — subject to agreement with Petrobras — stave off further liabilities.

The semisubs Urca and Frade were being built at the BrasFels shipyard in Rio de Janeiro state and the drillships Arpoador and Guarapari are at the Jurong Aracruz shipyard in Espirito Santo state.

Only drilling contractors with deep-water experience can take part, and qualifying companies can bid for the acquisition of all four rigs in a single package or in pairs from the same shipyard.

As part of the deal approved by Sete Brasil creditors last year, each of the four rigs will be chartered by Petrobras for a 10-year period for a dayrate of $299,000, although the oil giant did not say when it expects the units to begin their contracts.

Sources with prominent drilling companies acknowledged they had looked at what was on offer, but several consulted by Upstream admitted to reservations about the scope for early termination, residual compliance issues and a host of contingency factors.

The winning bidder will also be responsible for all investments to complete construction of the rigs.

“The cost and complexity of completing these rigs carries a heavy load of uncertainty. They have been sitting in the shipyards for several years already,” said a manager with one of the big rig companies.

The outcome of the Sete Brasil sale may also influence an ongoing Petrobras tender for a “pool” of rigs to work in depths of up to 2000 metres.

“Some of the potential buyers admit to feeling wary about how much Petrobras is willing to go along the Sete Brasil path when there are cheaper rigs out there, with more flexible terms, but there are also incentives for all sides to find something like a solution to the mess,” another source said.

Petrobras is also looking for an exit from its own 5% stake in Sete Brasil and a 4.6% indirect working interest via the FIP Sondas investment fund.

The state-controlled company has shown itself willing to settle commercial disputes emanating from a wave of early cancellations during the recent downturn, and is apparently looking to build better commercial relations with suppliers.

One of the few prominent drilling companies understood to be mulling a bid, albeit with a liberal dose of caution, is Seadrill.

Potential Brazilian candidates such as Ocyan and Constellation are seen as highly unlikely to bid.

Transocean was considering an offer, but is unlikely to see this through, Upstream understands.

Dubai-based Borr Drilling has shown interest, but ran into the qualification hurdle of requiring experience as an ultra-deepwater operator. One source suggested a partnership with Paragon Offshore could offer a solution.

Etesco, a Brazilian driller with Japanese backers and deep-water experience, was also seen as a possible partner.

Set up in 2010, Sete Brasil originally ordered 29 ultra-deepwater rigs at Brazilian shipyards, with 28 on long-term contracts with Petrobras.

Sete Brasil started hitting trouble when it failed to secure financing through Brazil’s National Development Bank.

Construction of the rigs was suspended in 2015, when the company ceased payments to shipyards and the Car Wash corruption investigation was intensifying, revealing that the rig-building contracts were laden with bribes.

In April 2016, Sete Brasil filed for bankruptcy protection and has debts of more than $5 billion today.

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