Brazil’s Bolsonaro to oust Petrobras CEO after fuel pricing spat

Brazil’s Bolsonaro to oust Petrobras CEO after fuel pricing spat
Roberto Castello Branco, the CEO of Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 20 February 2021

Brazil’s Bolsonaro to oust Petrobras CEO after fuel pricing spat

Brazil’s Bolsonaro to oust Petrobras CEO after fuel pricing spat
  • The government said it had decided to appoint former Defense Minister Joaquim Silva e Luna to run Petroleo Brasileiro SA

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro moved to replace the head of state-run oil company Petrobras, naming a retired army general with no oil and gas experience as CEO after weeks of clashes with the current chief executive over fuel price hikes.
In a late Friday statement from the Mines and Energy Ministry, first shared on Bolsonaro’s Facebook page, the government said it had decided to appoint former Defense Minister Joaquim Silva e Luna to run Petroleo Brasileiro SA , as the firm is known formally.
Current CEO Roberto Castello Branco, backed by investors for his efforts to sell underperforming assets and cut debt, would be the second Petrobras leader in three years to fall over the political fallout from fuel pricing. In 2018, then-CEO Pedro Parente resigned when the government forced fuel prices lower in a concession to striking truckers.
Parente vowed to set domestic prices in line with global markets, breaking with a policy that made Petrobras sell fuel below international parity, triggering some $40 billion in losses from 2011 to 2014.
Similarly, Bolsonaro tangled with Castello Branco over his insistence on raising prices for diesel and other fuel as Brazil’s currency weakened and global crude prices surged. Petrobras ADRs traded in New York slumped 8.9% in after-hours trading on Friday, adding to the day’s drop of nearly 7% in its Brazil-listed preferred shares.
Petrobras has been raising fuel prices since a Feb. 5 Reuters report disclosed details of the company’s price policy, which led analysts to downgrade its shares on concerns of possible political interference.
Castello Branco’s ouster could force a broader shakeup at Petrobras, which has steered toward more market-friendly and less politically driven policies in recent years.
The company’s senior management is considering resigning en masse to protest the CEO’s replacement, three people close to the executives told Reuters on Friday evening.
Petrobras said in a statement that it had received notice from the Mines and Energy Ministry about the proposed CEO change, adding that the ministry had requested an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting.
The company’s board of directors is to meet on Tuesday in a regularly scheduled session.
Most of the board has so far proven loyal to Castello Branco, although the majority are government appointed, which could create a messy transition.
Castello Branco, whose current mandate officially expires on March 20, was appointed to lead Petrobras when Bolsonaro took office at the start of 2019.
A University of Chicago-trained economist and ally of Economy Minister Paulo Guedes, he is a strong advocate of free-market policies and has previously rebuffed the president’s complaints about prices.
But investors have been jittery about possible political interference since the oil producer confirmed it was selling fuel in Brazil below international prices for longer periods than previously disclosed, confirming a Reuters report.
The possible shakeup of senior management also puts in doubt one of the CEO’s main goals: ending Petrobras’ near monopoly in refining in Brazil, three source close to bidders said.
Silva e Luna, who has won frequent praise from Bolsonaro for his management of Brazil’s massive Itaipu hydroelectric dam on the border with Paraguay and Argentina since 2019, is little known to investors.
He would be the third military figure to occupy a key energy post: the president of Petrobras’ board and the nation’s Mines and Energy minister are both admirals.
In April 2019, just months after Bolsonaro took office, the president demanded explanations for Petrobras’ price hike, which was swiftly reversed. After company shares tumbled, Petrobras and the government assured investors that there would be no political interference in fuel pricing.
Tensions eased last year as crude prices tumbled, but truckers have renewed their complaints in recent months.
During a late Thursday announcement about lower fuel taxes, Bolsonaro made clear his dissatisfaction with Castello Branco, saying there would be changes at Petrobras “in coming days.”
Analysts and investors were jarred by the quick succession of events on Thursday and Friday.
“It’s a delicate situation, and it happened in such a disorganized way,” said Edmar de Almeida, a professor specializing in energy at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
Petrobras will complete 67 years in 2021 and will have its 39th CEO — or about one head every 18 months, said UBS analyst Luiz Carvalho.
The company’s issues will persist as long as its controlling shareholder — the government — does not understand that the problem is not with the company’s executives, but with the lack of a coherent strategy from above, he said.
“While the world is moving toward an energy transition with a cleaner energy mix, in Brazil we are discussing subsidies for diesel consumers,” Carvalho said.


Saudi SABIC, ExxonMobil begin operations of petrochemical JV on US Gulf Coast

Saudi SABIC, ExxonMobil begin operations of petrochemical JV on US Gulf Coast
Updated 20 January 2022

Saudi SABIC, ExxonMobil begin operations of petrochemical JV on US Gulf Coast

Saudi SABIC, ExxonMobil begin operations of petrochemical JV on US Gulf Coast

RIYADH: Riyadh-based Saudi Basic Industries, also known as SABIC, one of the leading petrochemical firms worldwide, announced the start of operations of its petrochemical joint venture with US ExxonMobil.

US Texas is to witness the launch of an ethylene production unit – operating an annual capacity of around 1.8 million tons, the homegrown petrochemical company said in a statement.

The new production unit, which started construction in 2019, will produce materials to be utilized in packaging, agricultural film, construction materials, clothing, and automotive coolants.

This project is in line with SABIC’s strategy, aimed at diversifying its feedstock as well as strengthening its position in North America.

“This is a remarkable achievement that positions us well to help meet growing global demand for performance products while providing meaningful investment in the US Gulf Coast,’ president of ExxonMobil Karen McKee said, commenting on the partnership.

SABIC noted that the deal’s financial impact is expected to roll out on the company’s financial statements during the ongoing quarter.

In the latest trading session, shares of the company edged down by 0.2 percent to close at SR126 ($33.6).


Mastercard, Coinbase partner to make NFTs more accessible

Mastercard, Coinbase partner to make NFTs more accessible
Updated 20 January 2022

Mastercard, Coinbase partner to make NFTs more accessible

Mastercard, Coinbase partner to make NFTs more accessible

RIYADH: Payments giant Mastercard has partnered with cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase to make non-fungible tokens more accessible.

Mastercards can be used to make purchases on Coinbase’s upcoming NFT marketplace.

“We’re excited to announce today that we’re partnering with Coinbase to let people use their Mastercard cards to make purchases on Coinbase’s upcoming NFT marketplace,” Mastercard said in a statement.

“Getting more people involved safely and securely is perhaps the best way to help the NFT market thrive.”

Mastercard also sees greater potential for core NFT technology to go beyond art and collectibles in many other areas.

Coinbase announced in October last year that it is launching an NFT marketplace.

“Coinbase NFT, as a peer-to-peer marketplace that will make minting, purchasing, showcasing and discovering NFTs easier than ever,” Coinbase said.

“We’re making NFTs more accessible by building user-friendly interfaces that put the complexity behind the scenes. We’re adding social features that open new avenues for conversation and discovery. And we’re going to grow the creator community exponentially, a win for artists and for fans.” 


Saudi Wafrah appoints Khaled Saleh Al Amoudi as CEO

Saudi Wafrah appoints Khaled Saleh Al Amoudi as CEO
Updated 20 January 2022

Saudi Wafrah appoints Khaled Saleh Al Amoudi as CEO

Saudi Wafrah appoints Khaled Saleh Al Amoudi as CEO

RIYADH: Saudi food firm Wafrah for Industry and Developments has appointed Khaled Saleh Al Amoudi as CEO on Thursday, according to a bourse statement. 

The decision follows recommendation from the Remuneration and Nomination Committee.

With a M.Sc.in Financial Management, Al Amoudi currently holds the chief financial officer position at the firm, with more than 20 years of accumulated experience as CFO and in the governmental and bank sectors.


Tadawul approves $755m government debt listing

Tadawul approves $755m government debt listing
Updated 20 January 2022

Tadawul approves $755m government debt listing

Tadawul approves $755m government debt listing

RIYADH: Saudi stock exchange Tadawul approved listing of SR2.83 billion ($755 million) worth of government debt instruments, submitted by the Ministry of Finance, according to a bourse filing.

The first issuance dated January 8, amounts to SR1.25 billion, Tadawul said in a statement.

The second issuance dated January 12, is valued at SR1.59 billion.


Profits of Saudi-based SADAFCO drop 28.6% as pandemic hits sales

Profits of Saudi-based SADAFCO drop 28.6% as pandemic hits sales
Updated 20 January 2022

Profits of Saudi-based SADAFCO drop 28.6% as pandemic hits sales

Profits of Saudi-based SADAFCO drop 28.6% as pandemic hits sales

RIYADH: Saudia Dairy and Foodstuff Co., or SADAFCO, reported a 28.6 percent decline in profit during the nine months ending Dec. 31, 2021. 

Profits dropped to SR146 million ($38.9million), compared to SR205 million in the corresponding period a year earlier, the company announced in a bourse statement.

SADAFCO attributed the lower profit figures to lower sales volumes driven by the pandemic, an increase from 5 percent to 15 percent in VAT, and higher material and logistics costs.

The financial statements of the company indicated a healthy cash flow, with a strong cash position of SR679 million.

SADACFO’s share price edged down by 0.12 percent in today’s session to close at SR167.

Earlier, the company’s board recommended cash dividends at SR3 per share for the first half of the fiscal year ended Mar. 31, 2022.

Jeddah-based SADAFCO operates sales and distribution depots in 24 locations across Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, and Kuwait. Its products are also exported to several countries in the MENA region.