RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – The chief executive and other senior management at Brazil’s Petrobras resigned on Wednesday amid a festering corruption scandal, setting off a scramble to find replacements capable of restoring investor confidence in the state-run oil company.
The company’s board of directors will meet on Friday to elect a new management team to replace Chief Executive Officer Maria das Graças Foster and five other senior executives, Petrobras said in a securities filing.
Most replacements will likely come from within Petrobras, but getting the scandal-hit company back on track – and its accounts certified by auditors – could require an experienced CEO, possibly from outside the oil business, an executive with direct contact with Foster told Reuters. The executive spoke on condition of anonymity.
Petrobras shares jumped as much as 7.8 per cent in early trading in Sao Paulo on the news before paring gains to close just 0.2 per cent higher. The stock rose more than 15 per cent on Tuesday – its biggest one-day gain in 16 years – helped by reports that President Dilma Rousseff had decided to replace Foster by the end of February.
The timing of the resignations came as a surprise to the Rousseff administration, which was hoping for more time to find potential replacements, a government source told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
The pressure on Foster to step aside had been mounting since Petrobras released unaudited quarterly results two weeks ago that did not include any corruption-related writedowns. On Tuesday night, protesters banged pots and pans outside Foster’s home in Rio de Janeiro when she returned from a meeting with Rousseff in Brasilia.
Before Wednesday’s resignations, Rousseff had asked Finance Minister Joaquim Levy, a University of Chicago-trained economist and former banking executive, to help sound out potential candidates for a new Petrobras leadership team, another government source told Reuters on Tuesday.
The names rumored to be under consideration for CEO include former banker and central bank governor Henrique Meirelles; the former chief executive of iron-ore miner Vale, Roger Agnelli; current Vale CEO Murilo Ferreira, former Petrobras and OGX executive Rodolfo Landim, and the former CEO of petrochemical company Braskem, José Carlos Grubisich.
Given the daunting task of turning around Petrobras and Rousseff’s reputation as a micromanager of the company’s affairs, it remains unclear if the government will find any takers for the job quickly.