(Adds detail of fuel price decline, Petrobras fuel policy)
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Brazil’s state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA is making a profit on the sale of imported gasoline in the Brazilian market following the recent decline in world oil and fuel prices, a Petrobras source told Reuters on Monday.
The wholesale price of gasoline at the refinery gates of Petrobras’ Brazilian refineries is now 4 percent higher than the international price and diesel refined at home is 7 percent more expensive than imports, the source said.
The source requested anonymity because of a lack of authorization to speak publicly about the company’s fuel prices.
The sharp drop in the price of oil has boosted profit at Petrobras’ refining and supply division. Until late 2014, when prices began falling to levels similar to today, Petrobras’ over-stretched national refineries were unable to meet the country’s growing fuel demand and had to import fuel at a loss.
The losses were caused by the government’s refusal to allow Petrobras to raise prices in line with world prices. Petrobras’ refining division lost about 50 billion reais ($14 billion) over several years as a result. While the oil prices drop in 2014 stanched the losses, a rebound in prices in 2015 wiped out much of the new profit.
Gasoline had been sold in Brazil at a loss since May despite a rare government-approved price hike in November.
Diesel imports have remained profitable even though the margin was reduced during the world price rebound earlier this year.
Oil futures , which help orient world fuel prices, fell more than 6 percent to six-year lows on Monday with the U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate trading at below $40 a barrel.
With domestic wholesale fuel prices in Brazil stable since November, the chance of profit at Petrobras’ refining unit will increase as a result.
“The market is good in the fuel sector for Petrobras,” the high-level company source said. ($1 = 3.5516 Brazilian reais) (Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Writing by Jeb Blount; Editing by Chris Reese and Lisa Shumaker)