Is Petrobras Becoming Too Tied to Brazil Elections and Sentiment?

September 23, 2014

Jon C. Ogg – 24/7 Wall St., 09/22/2014

Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (NYSE: PBR), or Petrobras, is showing how dangerous it can be for one company to be considered such a key market barometer for upcoming elections. With Brazil having tipped from a great emerging market back into a red-tape economy, and now into an economy that keeps weighing social issues over that of domestic and international finance, the question to ask is whether Petrobras is simply becoming too much of a daily barometer for Brazil’s upcoming presidential elections.

As the October 5, 2014, presidential election comes closer and closer, Petrobras shares seem to rise and fall drastically around predictive polling and news flows each day. From an outsider’s view, it is easy to see how and why a socialist-leaning president would be more liked by the bulk of the population — after all, Brazil’s general population is far from wealthy.

The flip side is also easy to see, and that is that international money is not going to flow into a nation that treats capital so poorly. To say that common stock investors of Petrobras are treated poorly in the capital structure would be the understatement of the year. If Petrobras was an international oil giant that acted like most of its large peers in the Americas and Europe, investors would likely flock back into Petrobras (and likely elsewhere in Brazil).

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Brazil’s largest company, Petrobras, accused of political kickbacks

September 18, 2014

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 09/17/2014

The brutalist headquarters of South America’s biggest company, Petrobras, offers a harsh riposte to those who try to romanticise Brazil as a land of golden beaches and endless forest. This week, the concrete edifice in central Rio de Janeiro was the focus of a pro-oil rally by thousands of petrochemical workers amid a presidential election debate dominated by how to manage the nation’s vast fossil fuel reserves.

It is a question that has opened up the biggest gap between President Dilma Rousseff, an old industry champion of the Workers Party, and her main challenger Marina Silva, a former environment minister who has pledged to shift priorities towards alternatives energies like wind, solar and ethanol.

This is more than just a Brazilian rerun of George Bush and Big Oil versus Al Gore and climate concern, because state-run Petrobras is no ordinary company and – with the company also mired in a massive corruption scandal – this is no ordinary time.

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Brazil’s Rousseff moves to limit damage from Petrobras scandal

September 9, 2014

Anthony Boadle – Reuters, 09/08/2014

President Dilma Rousseff sought to shield her re-election bid from a new scandal at state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA by asking prosecutors on Monday for any details involving officials in her government.

Brazilian magazine Veja reported on Saturday that a jailed former executive at Petrobras named Energy Minister Edison Lobao and two dozen other politicians as people who received kickbacks from the company’s contracts.

The scandal threatens to further complicate Rousseff’s chances of winning a second term in October in a tight contest, with polls showing her behind environmentalist Marina Silva in a potential runoff. Rousseff told reporters Lobao had “vehemently” denied the allegations. She asked Brazil’s top prosecutor for details of the plea bargain testimony leaked to Veja to see if any government officials are involved so she can take action.

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Kickback Allegations Ensnare Brazil’s Presidential Campaign

September 9, 2014

Will Connors, Luciana Magalhaes and Jeffrey Lewis - The Wall Street Journal, 09/07/2014

Leading opposition presidential candidate Marina Silva was forced on Sunday to confront a scandal involving Brazil’s biggest company that already tarnished the country’s president and has added another level of complexity to October presidential elections.

A former executive of state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA PETR4.BR -4.91% alleged that dozens of prominent Brazilian politicians—including Ms. Silva’s former running mate Eduardo Campos —took part in a kickback scheme for Petrobras contracts, according to a story published Saturday by a Brazilian newsweekly.

Ms. Silva, a former environment minister who replaced Mr. Campos as the socialist party candidate after his death last month in a plane crash, currently leads incumbent Dilma Rousseff in the polls and has made clean government one of her main selling points.

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Scandal hits Brazil on eve of election

September 8, 2014

Longview News-Journal, 9/7/2014

As Brazilians prepare to vote in a national election next month, a scandal involving the state-controlled oil giant Petrobras flared up again during the weekend over testimony that implicated dozens of top figures in President Dilma Rousseff’s governing coalition in a vast kickback scheme.

Details of the scheme were revealed in confidential testimony by Paulo Roberto Costa, a jailed former executive who oversaw refining operations at Petrobras until 2012. The testimony was obtained by Veja, a Brazilian magazine. The accusations target Rousseff’s energy minister, Edison Lobão, and the leaders of both houses of Congress, Henrique Eduardo Alves and Renan Calheiros.

The revelations complicate a tough re-election bid by Rousseff, who has seen her lead in the polls vanish amid the surging candidacy of Marina Silva, an environmental leader whose campaign has blasted Rousseff over corruption at Petrobras and called on Brazil to shift toward a greater reliance on renewable energy sources. The election is scheduled for Oct. 5.

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The Petrobras affair

September 8, 2014

J.P. – The Economist, 9/8/2014

“If I talk, there won’t be an election,” Paulo Roberto Costa, a former executive at Petrobras, was supposed to have warned. Now Mr Costa, arrested in March in a money-laundering probe involving Brazil’s state-controlled oil giant, has started talking. Polling day in Brazil, now less than a month away, will not be cancelled. But if what he says is true, it could affect the outcome.

According to revelations published in Veja, a leading weekly, and Estado de São Paulo, a newspaper, Mr Costa, who ran Petrobras’s refining division from 2004 to 2012, has accused more than 40 politicians of involvement in a vast kickback scheme. The list reportedly includes a minister, three state governors, six senators and dozens of congressmen from President Dilma Rousseff’s Workers’ Party (PT) and several coalition allies. The beneficiaries are alleged to have pocketed 3% of the value of contracts signed with Petrobras in return for supporting the government in congressional votes.

The federal police, who have been taking Mr Costa’s testimony since August 29th, have yet to confirm or deny the press reports. All those who could be contacted have fiercely denied the allegations; at the time of writing The Economist is awaiting a statement from Petrobras, as well as from the police and the government.

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Brazil squanders oil bonanza even as Rousseff declares victory

September 3, 2014

Jeb Blount – Reuters, 09/02/2014

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has put her government’s oil policies front and center in her re-election campaign.

TV ads show dramatic views of giant, floating oil platforms and new refineries under construction. The message: her leftist government is turning an offshore oil bonanza into schools, hospitals and jobs, propelling Brazil into the ranks of developed nations.

But there’s a problem. Brazil’s oil industry may be large and growing, but little of what Rousseff promised when elected in 2010 – or before then as energy minister or chairwoman of state-run energy giant Petrobras – has come to pass.

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