Brazil’s Petrobras posts $9bn profit as Bolsonaro blasts company

By Gram Slattery and Roberto Samora

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazil’s Petrobras reported better-than-expected first-quarter net profit on Thursday, just minutes after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro railed against the state oil company’s profitability, saying its executives had no sympathy for ordinary people.

In a securities filing, Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as the company is officially known, reported quarterly net profit of 44.56 billion reais ($8.86 billion), higher than a consensus Refinitiv estimate of 43.5 billion reais and nearly 40 times higher than the same quarter last year. .

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, came to 77.71 billion reais, slightly above Refinitiv’s estimate of 76.3 billion reais.

In comments accompanying the results, Petrobras attributed the rise in profits to factors including high Brent crude oil prices, wider margins in its diesel business and reduced imports of liquefied natural gas. It noted that its divestment program had slowed compared to the previous quarter.

The first-quarter results, however, were largely overshadowed by comments from Bolsonaro during a weekly broadcast on several social media platforms, just minutes before the results were released.

In a particularly free speech, he said Petrobras was committing a “crime” and “rape” against Brazil by making windfall profits, while running over Brazilian consumers at the gas pump.

Far-right Bolsonaro said he would not interfere with Petrobras operations, but implored the company not to raise fuel prices any further.

Bolsonaro faces an uphill struggle in his bid for a second presidential term in October elections and trails leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in opinion polls.

Petrobras has a policy of pegging domestic fuel prices to international rates, a policy that has come under fire as prices soared amid the war in Ukraine.

In a statement accompanying the Petrobras results, Chief Executive José Mauro Coelho, who took the reins in April after his predecessor was fired amid a spat over domestic fuel prices, said the company contributed to society through taxation and dividends.

“All of this generates economic development along the production chain, creating jobs, wealth and tax revenue for the nation,” Coelho wrote.

“This quarter, we will pay the federal, state and municipal governments an amount equal to one and a half times our net income in taxes.”

The company announced early Thursday the payment of an ordinary dividend of 3.715 reais per share. The government is by far its largest shareholder.

($1 = 5.03 reais)

(Reporting by Gram Slattery in Rio de Janeiro and Roberto Samora in Sao Paulo; editing by Richard Pullin and Leslie Adler)

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