Berliner Boersenzeitung - Chief of state oil company dismissed in Brazil

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Chief of state oil company dismissed in Brazil
Chief of state oil company dismissed in Brazil / Photo: Mark Felix - AFP

Chief of state oil company dismissed in Brazil

The CEO of Brazil's state oil company Petrobras has been sacked, the government announced Tuesday.

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The move follows a recent spat between Petrobras and shareholders over dividend payments, which heightened concerns about the government's influence in the publicly traded company's decision-making.

Jean Paul Prates, a former state senator and ally Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, "has been dismissed," a presidential spokesman said Tuesday evening.

A lawyer and economist, Prates was appointed last January by the Petrobras board of directors soon after leftist Lula was sworn in for a third term. He previously held office from 2003-2011.

Prates previously served as a senator in the state of Rio Grande do Norte and was a member of Lula's Workers' Party.

A presidential spokesperson later told AFP that Lula intends to nominate former top regulator Magda Chambriard to be the next CEO, pending approval by the company's board.

Chambriard led Brazil's oil and natural gas agency (ANP) from 2008-2016 and is the only woman to have held the post.

She served under Lula and his successor Dilma Rousseff, also a member of the Workers' Party.

- Fierce criticism -

When Lula nominated Prates for the CEO position, he described him as a specialist in the energy sector with 30 years experience in the oil, natural gas, biofuels and renewable energy sectors.

But the 55-year-old faced fierce criticism in recent months after Petrobras announced it would not pay an extraordinary dividend to investors following its second-highest net profit ever last year.

The March announcement caused the company's share price to plummet and was seen by some analysts and opponents as direct government intervention.

Lula has repeatedly accused Petrobras executives of thinking only of satisfying the group's shareholders, to the detriment of consumers.

Prates at the time said on X that it was "legitimate" for the board to take a position "guided by the President" and his ministers.

"That is exactly what happened" in relation to the dividend decision, he added.

The Petrobras board eventually approved the dividend payment in late April.

The company confirmed in a statement Tuesday it had received a request for the board to meet on the early termination of Prates's mandate.

Just over half of Petrobras's capital is held by the Brazilian state, and the rest by private shareholders.

The firm previously experienced a turbulent period during the four-year term of Lula's predecessor, far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, who voiced strong opposition to the company's pricing policies.

During that time, the company saw changed four CEOs in rapid succession.

(T.Renner--BBZ)