SAO PAULO (Reuters) – The president of the Chamber of Deputies, Arthur Lira (PP-AL), said on Thursday that the explanations on fuel prices in the plenary of the House this week by Petrobras president Joaquim Silva e Luna, were not satisfactory, and argued that the state company should provide more information on the subject.
In a live broadcast carried out by Necton Investimentos, Lira said that he does not advocate price fixing, but rather that Petrobras share with the Brazilian population some of the wealth it obtains.
“We need to know where the fuel price problem is,” said Lira, adding that “some say” that Petrobras will very quickly transfer the rise in oil prices on the international market to the fuel prices it charges in Brazil. A speech in this regard was made recently by the president of the Central Bank, Roberto Campos Neto.
In a hearing at the Chamber on Tuesday, the president of Petrobras stated that, at a time of high fuel prices and an energy crisis, Brazil can count on the state-owned company, and stated that the country gains when the company pays dividends and taxes .
In August, Petrobras informed that its Board of Directors approved the payment of dividends to shareholders, whose portion destined to the Union will total 15.4 billion reais in 2021.
Since the Luna administration took over the company on April 19, after President Jair Bolsonaro appointed him to replace Roberto Castello Branco, gasoline at the state-owned refinery has risen by 5.5%, while diesel at 1, 8%, according to company data compiled by Reuters.
This variation was obtained with four adjustments in gasoline, two reductions and two increases more recently, in the wake of the gains in the oil market, while in diesel, there were only two adjustments since Luna took over the company, with a low of almost 2% and a rise of just over 3.5% in early July.
The situation differs from the pace of readjustment of the previous administration, which generated discontent in Bolsonaro by raising the price of diesel in six opportunities throughout the year until mid-April, while the value of gasoline rose seven times.
In the accumulated result for the year, Petrobras’ gasoline rose around 51%, while diesel advanced around 40%. Brent oil accumulates an increase of around 44.17%.
The Luna administration adopted a position of avoiding passing on oil market volatility to its prices, waiting for a trend consolidation before announcing readjustments, which explains the lower number of movements.
The price of Petrobras fuels also takes into account the exchange rate, an important factor in import parity, while the values at the pump still depend on taxes and margins from resellers and distributors.
In the broadcast on Thursday, Lira stated that, as doubts still remained after Luna’s presence in a general committee of the Chamber’s plenary this week, it is possible that deputies will move asking for more information from Petrobras and control bodies.
“But it is important that Petrobras anticipates,” he defended. “It is not possible for us to remain in this state of lethargy and inertia in relation to the things that are happening,” he said.
Petrobras preferred shares traded at a low of about 2% near midday, while the Ibovespa fell by almost 1%.
The president of the Chamber also questioned the price of natural gas charged by Petrobras and, while acknowledging that the oil company is a mixed economy company, and therefore has to pay dividends to shareholders, he stated that the Union is the largest holder of company shares. Thus, Petrobras needs, in Lira’s view, to take into account “Brazil’s strategic issues”.
“It’s not clear what Petrobras’ policy is at this time of energy crisis,” said Lira, insisting that he was against pricing or price controls.
Sought to comment on Lira’s statements, Petrobras did not manifest itself immediately.
(Reporting by Eduardo SimõesAdditional reporting by Marta Nogueira, in Rio de Janeiro Edition by Alexandre Caverni and Roberto Samora)