The idea of President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) to change the direction of Petrobras to demonstrate strength and concern about the rise in fuel prices during the election year failed. A month after the state-owned company announced a mega-increase in gasoline and diesel, the government only managed to get its second nomination – that of chemist José Mauro Ferreira Coelho – to take over the presidency of the company. It also saw increased power for investors interested in high prices on the company’s board of directors.
Until the Petrobras shareholders’ meeting, on Wednesday (13), these investors had three seats out of the 11 on the board. The government had seven.
But on Wednesday, the assembly elected four investor representatives to the board. This reduced government representation to six.
The 11th vacancy is for a representative of Petrobras employees.
The board of directors is Petrobras’ main decision-making body. It is who approves strategic plans and larger business.
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With fewer representatives in the forum, the government lost strength over the company. Despite still controlling the majority of votes, this number has already been higher, as well as the power of the Brazilian state over the state-owned company.
“It was a defeat for the government,” said Rosângela Buzanelli, a member of the Petrobras board of directors elected by the employees. “In addition to losing a seat on the council, the government failed to get its first nominee to assume the presidency.”
The first nominee was consultant Adriano Pires. He was appointed to the presidency of Petrobras by the Ministry of Mines and Energy after the resignation of reserve general Joaquim Silva e Luna. Pires’ relationship with private oil companies, however, raised questions about possible conflicts of interest. He gave up the post.
José Mauro Coelho, then, was nominated. He was sworn in as president on Thursday (14). In a speech, he thanked President Bolsonaro. He promised to advance in projects to sell refineries and other parts of Petrobras, as well as maintain the company’s pricing policy, which is responsible for the general increase in fuel prices in the country.
Read here: Readjustment will bring gasoline to R$ 7 across the country
Sales and pricing are part of Petrobras’ strategic plan announced in 2016, after the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff (PT), with the aim of increasing state profitability and, consequently, shareholder gains.
In 2021, Petrobras made a record profit of BRL 106 billion – 1,400% more than in 2020. Of this, BRL 100 billion will be distributed to investors in the form of dividends.
Also read: The contrast between fuel price and Petrobras profit
União, owner of almost 37% of the company, will receive more than R$ 37 billion. Private shareholders, on the other hand, keep the remainder, almost R$ 63 billion.
Currently, only 18% of Petrobras’ private shareholders are Brazilian. The other 45% are foreigners.
According to Buzanelli, private participation in Petrobras’ share capital has been growing. The growth occurs because the government is getting rid of the shares it owned. The National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES), for example, had around 15% of Petrobras shares in 2017. Today, it has less than 8%.
With more shares, investors also gained decision-making power over Petrobras. The increase in their participation in the council, explained the counselor, has to do with this process.
“The situation of Petrobras is very critical. It is a company that has 63% of my share capital in the hands of private investors,” he said.
capital and government
The employee representative said that, at the moment, government and investors work together because they have common interests. For her, despite Bolsonaro making public statements criticizing the rise in gasoline, his Petrobras nominees defend the company’s current pricing policy and increase shareholder gain with it.
Read more: Company benefited by Petrobras privatizations wants to hire former president of the state-owned company
Buzanelli pointed out that Petrobras’ new board of directors has members with a term of office until 2023. This means that, even in a possible change of government, investors will still maintain representation and create obstacles for the state-owned company to adopt a different management from the current one.
At the last shareholders’ meeting, a change in Petrobras’ statute would be voted on to reduce the possibility of the government intervening in the company. The proposal had the support of investors, but ended up leaving the agenda at the request of the government.
According to sources heard by the Brazil de facto, the government requested that the proposal be withdrawn from the agenda for the time being, but is not against it. For them, Bolsonaro wants to “shield” Petrobras in case he loses the elections – former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva leads all polls.
:: Privatized refinery raises more gasoline and diesel prices ::
The Single Federation of Oil Workers (FUP) and the National Association of Petroleum Workers Minority Shareholders of Petrobras (Anapetro) spoke out against the proposal.
“We are against the statutory amendments because they remove the power of the controlling shareholder, which is the Brazilian State, and it has a constitutional duty to serve the public interest and not the interests of the speculative shareholder”, said Mario Dal Zot, president of Anapetro.
“The statutory change would place Petrobras under the scrutiny and absolute control of its private shareholders, reducing its ability to respond to calls from the Union”, added Deyvid Bacelar, FUP’s general coordinator.
Editing: Rodrigo Durao Coelho