Next Petrobras CEO says he will change company’s fuel price policy

A man walks past the headquarters of Brazilian oil company Petrobras in Rio de JaneiroA man walks past the headquarters of Brazilian oil company Petrobras in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, September 10, 2020. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes/File Photo

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BRASILIA, Dec 30 (Reuters) – The incoming chief executive of Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras (PETR4.SA) said on Friday he planned to tweak the country's fuel price policy, but said investors need not worry.

President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Friday named Senator Jean Paul Prates as the next CEO of Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as the company is formally known. Lula tweeted that Prates will "lead the company into a great future."

Prates told journalists he will change the firm's pricing policy, which pegs fuel to global oil prices, but emphasized this does not mean prices will be completely unlinked to the international market.

"Petrobras' pricing policy will be changed, but not necessarily to traumatize investors," he said. "It will be changed because the country's policy will be changed."

The company's pricing policy was at the center of turmoil during President Jair Bolsonaro's administration. Three Petrobras CEOs were ousted during his term, as fuel price hikes stoked inflation and hurt his popularity.

Prates, a prominent voice on energy policy within Lula's leftist Workers Party (PT), was already seen as a strong candidate for the Petrobras job after being appointed to the transition team's group for mines and energy. He is expected to shift the company away from its focus on deep water drilling toward renewables.

After Prates takes over the firm, which he said should happen in mid-January, he will present company plans in detail to Petrobras' board of directors and to Brazilians in general.

"I see Petrobras as a company that needs to look to the future and invest in the energy transition to meet the needs of the country, the planet, and society, in addition to the long-term interests of its shareholders," Prates said.

He previously said the incoming government had no intention of causing a "breakdown" of Petrobras.

Industry group IBP praised the appointment, saying Prates "has a broad academic curriculum and consolidated experience in the sector, combined with great capacity for dialogue."

Earlier, Lula tapped Tarciana Medeiros to head Banco do Brasil SA (BBAS3.SA) and Rita Serrano as CEO of Caixa Economica Federal, fulfilling a pledge he would name two women to head the state-run lenders.

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