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Petrobras earnings beat estimates after fuel price increase

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Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Brazil's state- controlled oil producer, reported first-quarter earnings excluding items that beat analysts' estimates.

[RIO DE JANEIRO] Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Brazil's state- controlled oil producer, reported first-quarter earnings excluding items that beat analysts' estimates.

Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation, or Ebitda, rose to 21.5 billion reais (US$7.2 billion) in the first three months of the year from 14.4 billion reais a year earlier, the Rio de Janeiro-based company said in a statement Friday. That compares with a 17.5 billion-real average estimate of four analysts tracked by Bloomberg.

"Petrobras had a better quarter, given the cost of oil and gasoline abroad, and it had a gasoline price increase," Victor Hasegawa, a fund manager at Eagle Capital in Sao Paulo, said before the results were released. "Gasoline prices could rise further."

The release of first-quarter results comes just three weeks after the company ended a five-month internal debate on graft writedowns by disclosing audited 2014 earnings. That averted a potential debt default and cleared the way to renter credit markets.

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Chief Executive Officer Aldemir Bendine - who in February replaced Maria das Gracas Silva Foster amid a dispute over how corruption losses should be accounted - is working on a new business plan to reduce the industry's heaviest debt load and retain an investment-grade credit rating. Accomplishing that will be a challenge when crude prices are close to a six-year low and the company keeps missing production targets.

On April 22, Petrobras reported a record loss of 21.6 billion reais for 2014, including a corruption-linked writedown of 6.2 billion reais and a 44.6 billion-real impairment, mainly from overpriced and unfinished refinery projects.

As part of its effort to reduce debt, Petrobras is seeking to sell US$13.7 billion in assets over the next two years.

A person with knowledge of the matter said Wednesday that the company is preparing to sell as much as 4 billion reais in Brazil's domestic bond market as early as next week. Chief Financial Officer Ivan Monteiro said last month that Petrobras would consider a dollar-denominated bond sale this year.

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