Former Petrobras executive asks Brazil court to block dividend payment

(Reuters) – Guilherme Estrella, former director of Brazil’s state-controlled oil giant Petrobras, filed a lawsuit in court to block the payment of dividends by the company. In a late Friday filing, Petrobras reported that Estrella, a former director of exploration and production, requested the blocking of 32.1 billion reais ($6.6 billion) in dividends that would be paid in advance to the federal government, as approved in July. Estrella asks for studies to be carried out to prove that the distribution of dividends does not compromise the company’s competitiveness.

Petrobras did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside normal business hours.The move represents another question faced by the company over its generous payout policy this year amid rising profits fueled by higher oil prices. On Friday, prosecutors from Brazil’s audit court TCU asked to suspend dividends of around 43.7 billion reais announced by Petrobras last week on the back of a stronger-than-expected third-quarter profit. According to Reuters calculations, the amount represents more than double the average shareholder benefit paid by each of the five biggest Western oil producers.

($1 = 5.0557 reais)

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