Petroleo Brasilerio SA rattled markets last week when it posted a surprise $4.9 billion loss. Buried in the Brazilian oil giant’s 33-page financial statement was a piece of really good news: Its debt levels have tumbled to the lowest in almost three years.
While there’s still a long way to go, the $16 billion reduction since mid-2014 marks a hard-fought milestone in the company’s plan to claw its way back into investors’ good favor. Petrobras, once the gem of Brazil’s economy, has been battered in recent years by an oil rout, a massive corruption scandal and government policies that forced it to sell fuel at a loss. It’s the world’s most indebted publicly traded oil company with $123 billion in liabilities to pay back.