Brazil's Petrobras posts $9 bln profit as Bolsonaro rails against company

Credit: REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

By Gram Slattery and Roberto Samora

RIO DE JANEIRO, May 5 (Reuters) - Brazil's Petrobras posted a first-quarter net income that beat forecasts on Thursday, just minutes after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro railed against the state-run oil company's profitability, saying its executives had no sympathy for ordinary people.

In a securities filing, Petroleo Brasileiro SA PETR4.SA, as the company is formally known, posted a quarterly net income of 44.56 billion reais ($8.86 billion), above a Refinitiv consensus estimate of 43.5 billion reais and almost 40 times higher than the same quarter last year.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, came in at 77.71 billion reais, slightly above the Refinitiv estimate of 76.3 billion reais.

In comments accompanying the results, Petrobras attributed its profit jump to factors including high Brent prices, wider margins in its diesel business and reduced LNG imports. It noted that its divestment program had slowed from the previous quarter.

The company's first-quarter figures, however, were largely overshadowed by comments made by Bolsonaro during a weekly broadcast on multiple social media platforms, just minutes before the results were published.

In a particularly free-wheeling address, he said Petrobras was committing a "crime" and a "rape" against Brazil by posting bumper profits, while squeezing Brazilian consumers at the pump.

He added that he would not interfere with Petrobras' operations, but implored the company not to raise fuel prices any further.

The company has a policy of pegging domestic fuel prices to international rates, which has come under fire as prices have skyrocketed amid the war in Ukraine.

($1 = 5.03 reais)

(Reporting by Gram Slattery in Rio de Janeiro and Roberto Samora in Sao Paulo; editing by Richard Pullin)

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