On Monday, Petrobras shares plummeted 21%, wiping out 70 billion reais ($12.6bn) in market value, as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro once again blasted the pricing practices of the state-controlled oil firm after replacing its market-friendly CEO with a retired army general.
Following a series of analyst downgrades, the selloff deepened after Bolsonaro said the fuel strategy of the firm was only pleasing to Brazil’s financial markets and select groups and should be modified as part of an attempt to lower the prices of gasoline and diesel.
Overall, for Bolsonaro, a right-wing nationalist whose interventionist tendencies until now had been largely suppressed by economically conservative allies, the last few days have marked a drastic about-face.
On Monday, shares in the state-owned electricity company Eletrobras also plummeted after Bolsonaro said it would be the next sector in which the government would ‘stick its finger.’
Joaquim Silva e Luna, the general tapped by Bolsonaro on Friday to take the reins from Petrobras CEO Roberto Castello Branco, floated the concept of a government fund, or ‘cushion,’ in comments to Brazil’s Radio Bandeirantes on Monday, to lessen the impact of fluctuating fuel prices on consumers.
Bolsonaro doubled his criticism of Castello Branco and, after the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, mocked his decision on social distance, the magnitude of which the president has repeatedly played down.
“Now, the current Petrobras chief executive, let’s be very clear, has been at home for 11 months without working, working remotely. Now, the boss has to be on the front line,” Bolsonaro said, adding: “This is for me unacceptable.”