* To bid in Brazilian offshore oil exploration auctions
* Part of drive to boost sales, profit growth
* Frankfurt a new location option after merger with DEA (Recasts to add detail on Brazil, DEA merger, context)
By Vera Eckert
KASSEL, Germany, March 7 (Reuters) - BASF’s oil and gas subsidiary Wintershall announced plans on Wednesday to expand into Brazil’s growing offshore oil sector as part of a drive to boost sales and profit this year.
Chief executive Mario Mehren told reporters his company, which is due to merge with Russian-owned German rival DEA , would compete in upcoming offshore licensing rounds in Brazil, possibly with partners.
“We have been very Norway-focused which is good, but we want to have another area of exploration success,” he said.
“The Brazilian coastline is viewed as one of the world’s most promising oil regions,” he added.
Wintershall’s assets so far stretch from oil field concessions in Libya to subsea fields in the North Sea and to Russia’s Arctic regions.
It has studied geological data and is ready to co-operate in various arrangements for various assets in Brazil, as is customary in the oil and gas industry, Mehren said.
Foreign companies such as Exxon and Statoil , as well as Brazilian firms, could be open to partnerships, he added.
For Wintershall, Brazil would add to its activities in Russia, Argentina, Norway, Libya and Germany. Across the world last year, it repeated 2016’s record output of 165 billion cubic metres (bcm) of oil equivalent (boe).
Wintershall expects significant rises in sales and earnings before special items in 2018, after increasing both steeply in 2017, thanks to higher volumes and higher commodity prices.
Oil prices last year increased 23 percent to $54 per barrel on average for North Sea grade Brent. Wintershall’s internal company planning is based on an average price of $65 this year and an exchange rate of $1.2 per euro.
It also sees gas prices remaining at current levels in north-western Europe in 2018, after spot gas at European trading hubs rose 24 percent last year.
The merger with DEA, which BASF said last week would likely close by the end of the third quarter, will bring synergies in German and Norwegian oil and gas ventures where the two operate separately, and in administration costs, Mehren said.
This would likely affect the two headquarters at Kassel and Hamburg, Mehren said, mentioning that Frankfurt, Germany’s business capital, could become an option for moving certain operations.
The merger will be followed by an initial public offering of the merged entity, which BASF said it did not expect to happen before 2020.
$1 = 0.8057 euros Reporting by Vera Eckert; Editing by Ludwig Burger and Mark Potter