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Legal form Incorporated
Foundation 1981
Seat Salvador da Bahia, Brazil
Management Ruy Lemos Sampaio (Chair of the Board, COB), Luciano Guidolin (CEO)[1]
Number of employees 58.000 employees worldwide
Sales BRL 89.762 billion
Industry Construction, chemicals, petroleum, bioenergy, logistics, real estate, waste management
Website (en) (en)
Stand: June 2019

Novonor (formerly Organização Odebrecht; Eng. Organisation Odebrecht; also Odebrecht Group) is a family-owned conglomerate headquartered in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, and the holding company of the main company Construtora Norberto Odebrecht,[2] which operates in 25 countries worldwide in engineering, construction, petrochemicals, chemicals, energy, infrastructure, transportation and logistics, real estate, environment, ethanol and sugar. The company is responsible for the strategic direction of the group.[3][4] In June 2019, the parent company Odebrecht S.A. filed for bankruptcy.[5]

With 79,000 employees, the group was one of the largest in Latin America in 2019. Odebrecht set “new standards in bribe payments […] that reached gigantic proportions even by Latin American standards” (Süddeutsche Zeitung).[6] In 2018, the US Department of Justice estimated that Odebrecht had paid 788 million US dollars in bribes in Latin America alone from 2003 to 2018; he is said to have earned three billion US dollars from the deals thus initiated.[6]


The roots of the Brazilian Odebrecht group can be traced back to the German immigrant and cartographer Emil Odebrecht, who had immigrated to the Itajaí Valley from Greifswald in 1865 and was active in road and railroad construction and land surveying.[7] Direct descendants of the family were later involved in the creation of the Organização Odebrecht. Today it is led by the Construtora Norberto Odebrecht company, founded in 1944 in Salvador da Bahia by Norberto Odebrecht. Norberto Odebrecht was the son of Emílio Odebrecht, a grandson of emigrant Emil Odebrecht.[8]

Initially, the Odebrecht Group expanded from Bahia into other northeastern states, into southeastern Brazil in the 1960s, and into other countries from 1979. For growth outside Brazil, partnerships with large foreign companies and infrastructure groups often served as a springboard, especially in the chemical and petrochemical sectors.

In 2017, it offered engineering and construction services in most countries in Latin America, Central America, the United States, Angola, Portugal and the Middle East. From Brazil, petrochemical products are exported to over 98 countries in all continents. Parts of the company are involved in the transport sector in Portugal, as well as in diamond mining and oil production in Africa, especially in Angola. Odebrecht provides, among other things Services for oil production in the North Sea.

In terms of revenue, Odebrecht was one of the largest non-state-owned companies in Latin America in the 2010s. Except for parts of the listed subsidiary Braskem S.A., the Odebrecht Group is still privately owned today. In 2001, Odebrecht bought a majority stake in the chemical plants Braskem S.A. as part of the privatization process. This part of the business did not fall under the parent company’s insolvency filing in June 2019.[5]

On the one hand, Odebrecht was considered a pioneer in Brazil in the field of corporate social activities (see the section Social commitment). At the same time, the group of companies is associated with corruption scandals (see the section Corruption scandal). CEO Marcelo Odebrecht was sentenced to 19 years in prison on March 8, 2016, in connection with the Petrobras affair.[9] As a result, the group announced that it would cooperate with the judiciary in matters of bribery.[10]

Mass trade union protests against the increase in highway tolls for trucks in Peru in early 2017 were mainly directed against the company Odebrecht, which acts as a highway operator in Peru.[11]

The company changed its name to Novonor in December 2020.[12]

Business activity

The main business areas are chemicals and petrochemicals[13] and construction activities. It is one of the global players in Brazil.

The Group develops and manages public infrastructure projects[14] in collaboration with private and government partners. Since 2007, there has been increased investment in the bioenergy sector based on sugar and alcohol and electricity generation. Furthermore, Odebrecht is active in oil and gas production, waste management, as well as transport in Portugal[15] and in Angola in the real estate and[16] and mining in Angola.

The state of Ecuador expropriated Odebrecht (a regional airport and two hydroelectric projects worth a combined $800 million) in September 2008 and sent troops to expel Odebrecht employees from the country.[17]

In the 2009 fiscal year, the group generated more than half of its sales in the domestic market. Nevertheless, Odebrecht is the leading Brazilian company in the export of services, especially to other emerging and developing countries. Outside Brazil, Odebrecht generates most of its sales in the rest of Latin America, including the Caribbean (21.3% in 2009), and in Africa (11.3%), particularly in the former Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique. North America and Europe each accounted for only 5.1 % and 4.0 % of sales, respectively, in 2009.[18]

Group structure

Odebrecht S.A. is mainly divided into the following subsidiaries:

  • Braskem – operates chemical & petrochemical plants
  • Construtora Norberto Odebrecht – Construction/Infrastructure
  • Odebrecht Óleo e Gás – Oilfield services
  • Odebrecht Plantas Industriais e Participações – Services for the manufacturing industry
  • Odebrecht Engenharia Ambiental – Waste management
  • Odebrecht Realizações Imobiliárias – Real estate development

Social commitment

In all areas of the company, employees are subjected to special training and continuing education programs. In addition, vocational training is promoted, as well as opportunities for expanding and improving professional knowledge and skills.[19] The Fundação Odebrecht Foundation promotes educational, health and environmental projects, as well as cultural initiatives.[20]

Corruption scandal

According to investigations by the US judiciary, the Odebrecht Group paid up to US$785 million in bribes in twelve countries in exchange for construction contracts. The corporation maintained a kind of “bribe department” that regularly paid high-ranking politicians across the continent. The investigation against the corporation came to light through the “Lava Jato” (Car Wash) operation led by Judge Sérgio Moro, which initially focused on Brazilian oil giant Petrobras. Then the investigation was extended to the construction sector. Other construction companies also bribed politicians. In 2018, investigations were ongoing in Brazil against a third of the ministers in office at the time including President Michel Temer and ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.[6] Eight ministers, 24 senators and 39 deputies were investigated.[21]

In an international corruption trial, Odebrecht and its subsidiary Braskem, which operates in the chemical industry, agreed on 22 December 2016 to pay a fine of US$3.5 billion (€3.35 billion). This would have been the largest fine ever agreed to by litigants in an international corruption case to date.[22] However, according to the US Department of Justice, Odebrecht was only able to pay 2.6 billion US dollars. The subsidiary Braskem was to pay 957 million US dollars. Argentina, Venezuela, Peru and Colombia announced investigations to identify suspected bribe recipients.[23] In the Dominican Republic, arrest warrants were issued for 14 suspects in connection with bribe payments of over 92 million dollars.[24]

In April 2017, the U.S. Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York ordered Odebrecht to pay US$2.6 billion (approximately €2.4 billion). The majority (US$2.4 billion), of the fine set by a settlement with judicial authorities in several countries, will go to Brazil, followed by Switzerland (US$116 million) and the United States (US$93 million).[25]

In mid-December 2017, Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas had been found guilty in the first instance of accepting $13.5 million.[26]

In 2019, former Peruvian President Alan García was investigated by his country’s judiciary on suspicion of accepting illegal campaign contributions in an amount exceeding US$100,000. In return, García allegedly engineered the awarding of government construction contracts to the company. When authorities tried to take him into custody on April 17, 2019, García attempted to commit suicide and succumbed to his injuries in hospital a few hours later.[27]

In 2020, the FinCEN Files revealed suspicions that Odebrecht may have used Meinl Bank Antigua (previously a subsidiary of Austria’s Meinl Bank AG), which it purchased in 2011, and Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International to handle large kickback payments.[28]

Web links

Commons: Organização Odebrecht– Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual references

  1. ODEBRECHT S.A.’S BOARD OF DIRECTORS, retrieved 18 June 2019 (English)
  2. Corporate structure Construtora Norberto Odebrecht(Memento of 11 September 2012 in the Web on (English)
  3. Odebrecht Odebrecht no mundo. at (portuguese)
  4. Odebrecht Negócios. at (Portuguese)
  5. a b Brazilian scandal group faces bankruptcy, DW, 18 June 2019
  6. a b c Sebastian Schoepp, SZ, Munich/Rio de Janeiro: Lubricant for the continent. In: 24.January 2018, ISSN 0174-4917( [accessed 18 April 2019]).
  7. Bodo Bost: From Hinterpommern to Brazil and the World. In: Tópicos, ISSN 0949-541X,Vol. 49 (2010), Issue 3, pp. 26-27, here p. 26.
  8. History Odebrecht (Company homepage, Portuguese)
  9. Adriana Justi, Bibiana Dionísio Justiça Federal condena Marcelo Odebrecht em ação da Lava Jato. In: O Globo G1, 8 March 2016 (Portuguese).
  10. Latin America’s Pandora’s Box. In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 6 February 2017.
  11. Violent protests against higher tolls in Peru. In:, 13 January 2017, retrieved the same day (video report).
  12. Brazil’s scandal-hit Odebrecht changes name to Novonor.In: 18 December 2020, accessed 23 December 2020 (English).
  13. The world: A new petrochemical giant is emerging in Brazil
  14. (Link not retrievable)
  15. Lisbon-Madrid high-speed train concession contract(Memento of 30 January 2013 in Web (Portuguese)
  16. Website Odebrecht Angola Lda(Memento of 30 September 2013 in the Internet Archive) (English)
  17. Reuters report on expropriation in Ecuador. Reuters, retrieved 6 May 2017
  18. Odebrecht S.A. – SWOT Analysis May 14, 2010(Memento of September 7, 2012 in Web Archive (English)
  19. Programme “Education for Work” Page 23 (Portuguese)
  20. Publications by Noberto Odebrecht (Portuguese)
  21. André Cabette Fábio: Odebrecht Group: Corruption to the ends of the earth. In: Die Zeit. 14.April 2017, ISSN 0044-2070( [accessed 19 April 2019]).
  22. US Department of Justice Odebrecht and Braskem Plead Guilty and Agree to Pay at Least $3.5 Billion in Global Penalties to Resolve Largest Foreign Bribery Case in History, December 21, 2016.
  23. Corruption at Odebrecht: Countries in Latin America investigate.(Memento of 25 December 2016 in the Internet Archive) In: Südwest Presse, 23 December 2016.
  24. NZZ: 14 Arrests in the Wake of the Odebrecht Scandal, May 30, 2017
  25. Bribery affair: Brazilian corporation Odebrecht sentenced to billion-dollar fine. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 17 April 2017.
  26. NZZ, December 15, 2017, page 2
  27. Alan García: Peru’s ex-president shoots himself before arrest and dies.Die Zeit, April 17, 2019, accessed April 18, 2019.
  28. Domestic banks in Odebrecht scandal, on:, 20 September 2020, accessed 22 September 2020.