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RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil’s Petrobras yesterday posted a first-quarter net income that beat forecasts, just minutes after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro railed against the state-run oil company’s profitability, saying its executives had no sympathy for ordinary people.

In a securities filing, Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as the company is formally known, posted a quarterly net income of 44.56 billion reais or about US$8.86 billion (RM38.5 billion), above a Refinitiv consensus estimate of 43.5 billion reais and almost 40 times higher than the same quarter last year.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation, or ebitda, came in at 77.71 billion reais, slightly above the Refinitiv estimate of 76.3 billion reais.

In comments accompanying the results, Petrobras attributed its profit jump to factors including high Brent prices, wider margins in its diesel business and reduced liquefied natural gas imports. It noted that its divestment programme had slowed from the previous quarter.

The company’s first-quarter figures, however, were largely overshadowed by comments made by Bolsonaro during a weekly broadcast on multiple social media platforms, just minutes before the results were published.

In a particularly free-wheeling address, he said Petrobras was committing a “crime” against Brazil by posting bumper profits, while squeezing Brazilian consumers at the pump.

He added that he would not interfere with Petrobras’ operations, but implored the company not to raise fuel prices any further.

Bolsonaro said during a weekly livestream on social media that a new fuel price increase by Petrobras could bankrupt Brazil and cause what he called a “national convulsion”.

Petrobras pegs its fuel prices to international crude rather than subsidising fuel for Brazilians, but many people have demanded that it limits price increases for petrol and diesel as both have soared recently, hurting Bolsonaro’s popularity ahead of an October presidential election.

Petrobras did not immediately respond to a request for comment. – Reuters

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