Petrobras to keep paying ‘robust’ dividends in 2023, CEO says

 (Reuters) – The chief executive of Petrobras (PETR4.SA) said on Thursday the Brazilian state-run oil company will keep paying “robust” dividends in 2023 as it plans to continue reporting high profits.

Jean Paul Prates, who has previously criticized the current dividend policy of the company, said in a video conference with analysts that a balanced formula for payouts would be the one that the board, shareholders, and management decide in favor of investing well and remunerating shareholders at the same time.

“We are all in a ‘trade-off’ situation. You leave money with me and I will show you outstanding projects…, a well-composed portfolio of short, medium, and long-term, sustainable things, and the investor decides if he wants to stay with us or if he wants to be with the guaranteed ‘cash’ of the short term dividend,” he said.

Petrobras on Wednesday posted a better-than-expected 38% surge in fourth-quarter earnings but proposed to trim a $6.9 billion dividend, amid pressure from the government to boost investments.

“Wherever there is an opportunity in Brazilian territory or even abroad, we will pursue it. And who will decide this is not an emperor, or just one person, it is the board of directors, it is a competent executive board, it is an open dialogue including with investors and people who believe in Petrobras,” the executive said.

Prates also said he doubts whether there is a need for very strict rules regarding dividends payout.

“Circumstances change, the conjuncture changes, the projects change, and we are building this relationship together with dialogue with investors”, he said, adding that “it is possible to have a dialogue before taking decisions that investors may not like”.

Prates, a former senator appointed by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to head the oil giant, took office in January with expectations he would oversee a strategic shift to more renewable energy projects and renewed investments in refining.

Shortly after his remarks, Lula criticized the firm’s dividend payouts and said Petrobras should have invested more in the country’s growth.

Earlier, Prates argued that the company must prepare for an “unavoidable” energy transition and wants to play a leading role in it.

“We will maintain our protagonism in oil and gas production while working to finance and build this new future,” Prates said, adding his goal was to make Petrobras a balanced firm for it to play a leading role in the energy transition.

Shares in the company were down 0.9% on Thursday, underperforming Brazil’s Bovespa stock index.

Reporting by Gabriel Araujo, Roberto Samora and Marta Nogueira; Editing by Steven Grattan and Marguerita Choy

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