Luciana Magalhaes and Paul Kiernan – The Wall Street Journal, 2/4/2015
Maria das Gracas Silva Foster, the chief executive of Brazilian state-run oil company Petrobras , stepped down on Wednesday amid a growing corruption scandal, leaving vacant one of the most high-profile and demanding jobs in Latin America.
Petrobras says its board will meet on Friday to choose a replacement, but meanwhile, several names have been mentioned by analysts and in the Brazilian press as possible candidates. Here are six of those seen as most likely:
1.) Henrique Meirelles. Former president of Brazil’s central bank, current chairman of J&F, the controlling shareholder of leading global meatpacker JBS SA . Mr. Meirelles, 69, would likely have the support of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who also wanted him to become Finance Minister before Joaquim Levy was appointed to that post, according to two people familiar with the situation. Mr. Meirelles isn’t particularly close to current President Dilma Rousseff , but investors trust him, and Ms. Rousseff knows that bringing confidence back to Petrobras is necessary. A spokesman for Mr. Meirelles declined to comment on market rumors.
Brianna Lee – International Business Times, 1/16/2015
Brazil’s energy minister this week threw his support behind the CEO of Petrobras, the embattled state-run oil company embroiled in a vast corruption scandal that has dominated national headlines. Maria das Graças Silva Foster will keep her job as chief executive, the minister said, despite growing demands for her resignation.
“I believe she is the right person because she is competent, and few others know the Petrobras system,” said Eduardo Braga, Brazil’s minister of mines and energy, in an interview with television network Globo Thursday evening.
Foster had been a top executive at Petrobras since 2006 and became CEO in 2012. Last year the company became the center of allegations that executives had colluded with construction and engineering firms to bump up the value of projects, with kickbacks paid to dozens of politicians as part of the scheme. The scandal, which allegedly occurred in the years before Foster became CEO, became a top issue in the October presidential election that eventually led to a narrow win for incumbent Dilma Rousseff. Foster has denied any involvement or knowledge of the deals, and Braga defended her position on Thursday.
Three years after raising almost $70 billion in the largest share issue ever, Brazil’s state-owned oil and gas PetrobrasPBR -3.72% is in the midst of an unprecedented financial crisis. As the company approaches its 60th anniversary, it has seen its market capitalization drop 45% since its peak in 2010, from $196.21 billion to the current $103.9 billion. At the same time, Petrobras’ debt soared to over 2.5 times before earnings, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), totaling $112.4 billion as of June 30, 17% more than a year earlier. Net debt, or debt minus cash and marketable securities, was $79.6 billion, resulting in the company’s recent downgrading by Moody’s on concern that fuel subsidies and huge investment commitments will cause its debt to grow until at least 2015.
But why has Petrobras — whose CEO Maria das Graças Silva Foster is one of FORBES’ Most Powerful Women — gone from heaven to hell at the very moment when it is announcing some of its biggest oil discoveries, including those in its Libra field, whose estimates for production were recently updated to as much as 12 billion barrels, twice previous estimates?
Simply put, for Petrobras — as for any other oil company out there in the world, and Brazil’s own bankrupt OGX is an example of that — more oil means more investments and debt. Considering that Petrobras also has the world’s largest corporate spending program, valued at $237 billion, it also means more trouble.
Brazilian oil giant Petrobras (PBR) has been the ugly duckling of big oil companies. It’s high time it cleans up its act.
And, let’s be serious for a moment, Petrobras is a big oil company. It’s not Rosneft or ExxonMobil, but it’s a player. It discovered the biggest offshore oil find in years back in 2007, off the coasts of Rio de Janeiro and Espirito Santo states. But ever since that discovery, and ever since a massive share offering diluted shareholder value in 2009, this prime Brazilian investment has been nothing but a dud. Investors have punished the stock for the last two years. Shares are down over 40 percent since Jan. 1, 2010.
New management took time getting used to, and as an investment, Petrobras has been nothing but a let down. Considering it and mining major Vale account for a large portion of the BM&F Bovespa‘s Ibovespa index, Petrobras’s lackluster two years has been a drag on the broader equity market in Brazil too, and for holders of the popular iShares MSCI Brazil (EWZ) exchange traded fund. It’s the worst performer of the BRICs. EWZ is down 22 percent since the start of 2011 while the MSCI Emerging Markets index is down just 3.06 percent.
Brazil’s oil industry lauded the choice of Maria das Gracas Silva Foster to be the next chief executive at government-run energy giant Petroleo Brasileiro (PBR, PETR4.BR), while investors sent the company’s shares surging more than 4%.
Guido Mantega, Brazil’s finance minister and also the chairman of Petrobras, nominated Foster to succeed Jose Sergio Gabrielli, and the board of directors will vote Feb. 9. The government owns a majority of Petrobras voting stock, so the appointment is widely expected to be approved. Foster would be the first woman to serve as chief executive at Latin America’s largest company by market value.
Gabrielli, who couldn’t be reached, is expected to move into politics.