[SAO PAULO] The incoming chief executive officer of state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Aldemir Bendine, said on Tuesday that the company's board gave him full autonomy to dictate its own pricing policy and protect cash.
In his first public statements since he took over on Friday, Bendine said reports that Petrobras was preparing to book 88 billion reais (US$31 billion) in an asset writedowns due to corruption did not reflect "the reality of the company." President Dilma Rousseff picked Mr Bendine, a 35-year veteran of state-controlled Banco do Brasil SA, to steer Brazil's largest state firm out of a kickback and bribery scandal involving contracts with third parties. Investors hoped for a more independent manager with fewer ties to the Rousseff administration.
The difficulty in assessing the damage of the graft scheme delayed Petrobras' results, which that were released unaudited, further damaging the company's credibility.
Mr Bendine said independent auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers are accompanying Petrobras "day by day" in the task of preparing the release of its results. "What we are discussing now is the methodology, the way to calculate this," he said in an interview with TV Globo's nightly news show. "The results will reflect the actual situation in 2014, which could be affected by corruption, but also other variables such as prices," he said.
Mr Bendine said the company's priority is sound management of its cash flow and indebtedness. Petrobras is the world's most indebted oil company. Bendine said the debt was not as high as it looks, given the oil company's ability to generate revenues. "The board gave me full autonomy and freedom to manage the company," he said, when asked about pricing policy.
The Rousseff administration has been criticized for running Petrobras into the ground by making it subsidize gasoline prices as a way of keeping inflation in check.