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UPDATE 1-Petrobras executives flag production boost after lukewarm results

Gram Slattery

(Adds details throughout from call with analysts)

RIO DE JANEIRO, May 8 (Reuters) - Oil and gas production at Petroleo Brasileiro SA is on the rise, executives said on Wednesday, telling analysts that the firm was on course to hit its annual production target despite lagging output in the first three months of the year.

In a call with analysts following the release of first-quarter results, Exploration and Production Director Carlos Alberto de Oliveira reaffirmed the firm's production goal of 2.8 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) for 2019, adding that the company has been exceeding that figure in May. In the first quarter, the firm reported oil production of 2.538 million boepd, as output was hit by a number of stoppages.

Executives at Petrobras, as the firm is known, also pledged to keep forging ahead with an ambitious divestment program.

Chief Executive Officer Roberto Castello Branco said the company would look to sell its remaining 10-percent stakes in TAG and NTS, two natural gas pipeline units recently sold to investors, as soon as possible.

The firm will also publish a teaser in June with first details for investors on the sale of eight refineries in a process it has said could fetch some $15 billion, said Anelise Lara, the head of downstream operations.

Castello Branco said fuel distribution unit Petrobras Distribuidora SA, which is being privatized, would not be a potential purchaser of the refineries, contradicting comments on Tuesday by that unit's CEO.

On Tuesday night, Petrobras posted a 42-percent drop in first quarter net profit, missing Refinitiv estimates.

Analysts at BTG Pactual led by Thiago Duarte called the results "uninspiring," noting in particular a 38-percent increase in net debt due to the adoption of new accounting standards.

But investors seemed unfazed, and were pleased by increasing production. Brazil-listed preferred shares in Petrobras were up 4.1 percent in mid-day trade. Brazil's benchmark Bovespa index was up 1.9 percent. (Reporting by Gram Slattery Editing by Marguerita Choy and Alistair Bell)