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The new energy minister of Brazil will study the option of privatizing state oil giant Petrobras, he said in his first news conference.
"I request the beginning of the studies pending the proposal of the legislative changes necessary for the Petrobras' privatization," Adolfo Sachsida said, as quoted by Reuters.
The idea of privatizing Brazil's state oil company is not new. In 2019, there were reports that the Bolsonaro government was looking to take the company fully private by the end of 2022, which is also the end of its term.
"There are big guys thinking they won't be privatized, but we will get there," Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said at the time.
Petrobras is currently on a collision course with Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, after it booked higher profits thanks to the international oil price rally and soon after raised diesel prices for the domestic market, again in line with global trends in the industry.
Bolsonaro criticized the state oil company for its "abusive" profit, according to a Bloomberg report, and said, "I ask Petrobras to be responsible and not increase diesel prices."
The state oil company booked a profit of $9 billion for the first quarter, which was as much as 40 times higher than its net result for the first quarter of 2021.
Petrobras regularly becomes the target of government criticism when it raises domestic prices for its product, which it this time did on Monday, raising diesel prices by 9 percent.
Bloomberg noted in its report that there is a widely held belief that as a state-owned company, the oil major should work to shield Brazilians from the effects of global market trends when it comes to setting local fuel prices.
Yet if the company is privatized, it will be putting the interests of its shareholders over the interests of its consumers, and that could lead to higher prices as well if international oil prices remain high.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.