15 de octubre de 2014 / 14:28 / en 3 años

UPDATE 1-Brazil's Mantega says cheaper oil doesn't preclude Petrobras price hike

(Adds Mantega quote, background on Petrobras, share movement)

BRASILIA, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Lower global oil prices will not necessarily keep Brazil’s state-run oil producer Petrobras from increasing domestic fuel prices this year, Finance Minister Guido Mantega said on Wednesday.

Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as the company is formally known, currently imports fuel at global market prices in order to satisfy local demand, though the government compels the company to sell it at a fixed price to help control inflation.

That policy has caused losses at the company when the global price surpassed the fixed price.

Brent crude hit a new four-year low on Wednesday, however, with faltering global growth curbing demand for fuel at a time of heavy oversupply.

The price drop has brought down the cost of imported fuel, helping Petrobras nearly break even on those transactions for the first time this year.

Minority shareholders in Petrobras have chided President Dilma Rousseff’s government for its reluctance to boost fuel prices, saying it has damaged the company and its ability to pay for future investments. The government has repeatedly said prices will increase, though it has been vague about the size of the adjustment and when it would occur.

“There was a gap (in relation to global prices), and now there isn‘t,” Mantega told reporters in Brasilia. “But that doesn’t mean there won’t be a (price) increase, that is the company’s decision.”

Mantega serves as the chairman of Petrobras’ board of directors.

Petrobras shares have swung wildly in recent months as investors weigh the chances of a new government taking power after the Oct. 26 election. Many believe market-friendly candidate Aecio Neves would enact policies that are more favorable to the firm, and shares tend to skyrocket when electoral polls show Neves gaining ground.

Petrobras preferred and common shares were both down about 5.5 percent in early Sao Paulo trading on Wednesday.

The preferred shares soared 10.5 percent on Monday after Neves received a key endorsement from third-place candidate Marina Silva and an electoral poll showed him well placed to defeat Rousseff later this month. (Reporting by Nestor Rabelo; Editing by W Simon and Jonathan Oatis)

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