Jose Mauro Coelho has resigned as chief executive of Brazilian state-controlled oil giant Petrobras after facing strong pressure from the government over the company’s fuel pricing policy.
In a brief statement, the company said Coelho is leaving the post and that Petrobras exploration and production director Fernando Borges has been appointed as interim chief executive.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro had already announced that he was firing Coelho in late May — less than two months after he took on the role — but launched another barrage of attacks over the weekend after the company hiked diesel and gasoline prices again.
Coelho was the third Petrobras chief executive to be ousted since early 2021, as Bolsonaro continues his populist attempts to deflect blame for rising fuel prices in the country ahead of presidential elections in October.
Last week’s hike was triggered by the market-led formula that Petrobras uses to adjust prices based on Brent crude prices and exchange variations between the Brazilian real and the US dollar.
According to Petrobras corporate rules, a chief executive can only be formally removed by an extraordinary shareholders’ assembly, but this can take up to two months.
Bolsonaro announced nearly a month ago Caio Paes de Andrade for the position of new Petrobras chief executive, but Coelho stayed on the job even after he was fired, as the company needed to follow its own internal procedures to make the change effective.
However, Coelho was under intense scrutiny and being bombarded from all sides in recent days, with Bolsonaro attacking Petrobras and its board of directors after the recent fuel price hike, which he knows threatens to further undermine his popularity among voters.
With less than four months until elections in Brazil, polls show Bolsonaro is trailing former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Petrobras stock was down more than 2% in early trading in the Brazilian stock exchange on the news that Coelho quit earlier than expected.
Coelho and his Petrobras predecessors, Joaquim Silva e Luna and Roberto Castello Branco, were also forced out for adopting a fuel pricing strategy first implemented — and originally supported by Bolsonaro — in 2017.