(Adds comment from Parente)
BRASILIA/RIO DE JANEIRO, May 19 (Reuters) - Brazil’s interim President Michel Temer named Pedro Parente chief executive officer of state-led oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA on Thursday as his government tries to kick-start a shrinking economy and shore up the debt-laden oil producer.
An engineer and one-time chief of staff to former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Parente replaces Aldemir Bendine.
Parente, 63, is charged with rescuing Petrobras, as the company is known, from a financial crisis brought on by low world oil prices, crippling debt and a massive corruption scandal.
“I understand the responsibilities,” Parente said at a news conference in Brasilia. “I have no doubt that the company will have good governance and ...a strictly professional management.”
He said there would be no political appointments at the company.
Parente is best known for his role as chairman of the Brazil unit of agribusiness and commodities-trading giant Bunge Ltd from 2010 to 2014.
He said he would resign as chairman of the Brazilian bourse BM&FBovespa SA if there were a conflict of interest, though he would prefer to stay on as the company is in the middle of acquiring rival Cetip SA Mercados Organizados.
The appointment marks Parente’s return to Petrobras after 14 years. He sat on Petrobras’ board under Cardoso and was a key player in opening Petrobras to competition and international investment after the Cardoso administration ended Petrobras’ monopoly over exploration and production in 1997.
He managed a severe energy crisis that required electricity rationing and the quick building of supplementary power stations and also helped manage a reduction of the government’s stake in Petrobras.
The Petrobras he will take over, pending approval by its board of directors, will be quite different than the one he left. Petrobras invested $4.91 billion in 2002, Parente’s last year on the board. A decade later Petrobras was investing nearly $50 billion a year and despite major cutbacks still plans to spend $19 billion this year.
Petrobras has struggled in recent years to increase domestic oil production as much as expected, missing annual targets for 12 straight years.
Meanwhile, its total debt soared faster than output to about 450 billion reais, or nearly $130 billion, at the end of the first quarter from 33 billion reais ($9.32 billion) in 2002. Petrobras is now the most indebted oil company in the world.
Temer replaced suspended President Dilma Rousseff last week while she faces an impeachment trial.
$1 = 3.5634 Brazilian reais Reporting by Lisandra Parguassu, additional reporting and writing by Jeb Blount; Editing by Dan Grebler, Bernard Orr