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UPDATE 2-Engie bids $8.6 bln for Petrobras pipeline unit, topping competitors

Gram Slattery and Tatiana Bautzer

(Adds details on deal, background)

RIO DE JANEIRO/SAO PAULO, April 5 (Reuters) - A consortium led by France's Engie SA submitted the highest offer for a major gas pipeline unit owned by Brazil's Petroleo Brasileiro SA, the state-run oil firm said on Friday, as the company's biggest-ever divestment draws to a close.

In a filing, Petrobras, as the company is known, said the Engie consortium, which includes Canada's Caisse de Dépôt e Placement du Québec, presented an $8.6 billion bid for 90 percent of the TAG gas pipeline unit in northern and northeastern Brazil.

That topped offers by two competing consortia, led by Itausa Investimentos Itau SA and EIG Global Energy Partners with Mubadala Investment Co, respectively.

The sale is still subject to approval by regulators and the relevant company authorities, the firm said in the filing. The price tag includes the payment by the Engie group of $800 million in debts to Brazilian state development bank BNDES . At an exchange rate of 3.85 reais to $1, Petrobras said, the deal values all of TAG at 35.1 billion reais.

The divestment represents a victory for current Petrobras leadership and Chief Executive Roberto Castello Branco, who is pushing to aggressively unload assets in a bid to cut debt and refocus on exploration and production.

Castello Branco in March forecast $10 billion of asset sales in the first four months of 2019, with the TAG pipeline sale being the key divestiture.

The sale process began in October 2017 but was interrupted last year by a Supreme Court injunction and by a review of the sale rules by Brazil's audit court.

In September 2016, Petrobras sold a larger gas network pipeline, Nova Transportadora do Sudeste, with nearly 1,560 miles (2,510 km) of pipelines, for $5.2 billion to Brookfield Infrastructure Partners LP, which beat out a bid by Engie.

The firm is currently drafting terms for the sale of two groups of refineries expected to net several billion dollars. Some mature oilfields and the company's liquefied petroleum gas distribution unit on the block are each expected to fetch several hundred million dollars.

Petrobras will continue to distribution natural gas through the TAG system under the terms of long-term contracts, the company said in the statement.

Bloomberg reported on the TAG sale earlier on Friday. (Reporting by Tatiana Bautzer in Sao Paulo and Gram Slattery in Rio de Janeiro; editing by Richard Chang, Matthew Lewis and Bill Berkrot)