Roberto da Cunha Castello Branco has been removed as CEO of Petrobras through a vote by shareholders on Monday. Chief Exploration and Production Officer Carlos Alberto Pereira de Oliveira has been named interim CEO, but retired army general Joaquim Silva e Luna, who has no oil and gas experience, is expected to take over the leadership role.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been increasingly critical of Castello Branco over rising, market-based fuel prices. Although the company has improved its financial performance since Castello Branco joined in January 2019, Bolsonaro said on February 19 that he would not renew Castello Branco’s mandate at the state-controlled oil company.
Despite Bolsonaro’s 2018 presidential-campaign promise to let Petrobras operate without government interference, the populist politician has changed tack, choosing to protect Brazilians from rising fuel prices.
Forced to subsidize fuel prices, Petrobras may have to put its debt-reduction and divestiture plans on hold. Castello Branco had been behind the company’s selling off of non-core assets, including a group of refineries, to enable its focus on developing oil fields in the South Atlantic.