EXCLUSIVE Petrobras mulls insiders to fill key management vacancies -sources

(Reuters) Incoming Petrobras CEO Joaquim Silva e Luna, an army veteran with no oil experience, has endorsed four career executives to head up key company divisions rather than bringing in more outsiders, people with knowledge of the matter said on Thursday.

The board of directors of Petroleo Brasileiro SA , as Brazil’s state-controlled company is formally known, meets on Friday to vote on the new division heads, the company said. The board is also expected to officially confirm Luna as CEO.

Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, announced the 71-year-old Luna would take the helm of Petrobras in a Facebook post in February. read more Luna served as Brazil’s defense minister in 2018. He is the first military man to run Petrobras since the 1980s.

Half of the company’s eight-seat executive director team is currently vacant, including the chief financial officer’s post. Four divisional heads left the company after previous CEO Roberto Castello Branco was fired by Bolsonaro in February in a dispute over fuel prices. He officially ended his term on Monday. read

Among the candidates for executive directors, Chief Accounting and Tax Officer Rodrigo Araujo is expected to be named CFO, said the sources, who requested anonymity because the information is private.

Executive manager Fernando Borges, who led the massive Libra field offshore project, has been put up as a candidate for the Exploration and Production division, according to the people.

Executive Manager of Commercialization Claudio Mastella, if approved, will be head of the logistics and commercialization department, in charge of fuel prices, a sensitive topic for Petrobras.

Petrobras declined to comment.

All of the candidates have had long careers at Petrobras, the people said. Araujo, Borges and Mastella were part of the company’s succession plan.

Luna’s decision to endorse seasoned company executives sends a message of some continuity to a market wary of a non-expert’s appointment to lead the company.

A retired general with no experience in the oil sector, Luna was the latest in a slew of active duty and former military men with whom Bolsonaro has surrounded himself since he took office.

Castello Branco’s sacking after hiking fuel prices more than 30% within a couple of months sent jitters through financial markets.

Fuel prices are a sensitive topic for investors after Petrobras lost $40 billion between 2011 and 2014 as the government, which controls a majority of the company’s voting shares, forced it to subsidize local pump prices.

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