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At Brazil’s Petrobras, a ‘Chicago Boy’ takes the reins

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RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Depending on who you ask, Roberto Castello Branco, the new chief executive of Brazil’s Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PETR4.SA), will either save the indebted oil major – or strip it to the bone.

Roberto Castello Branco, the new CEO of Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras, delivers a speech at a ceremony marking his taking over the firm, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil January 3, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

Tapped by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who took power on Tuesday, Castello Branco had said in a June newspaper column he thought Petrobras – as the company is known – should be privatized, a hardcore proposal even in an administration packed with free market advocates.

He has walked back on that idea since being named as CEO in November, saying such a move is not in his mandate, but has indicated he remains laser-focused on an ambitious divestment program, aimed at cutting Petrobras’ staggering net debt, which stood at $73 billion as of the third quarter.

Castello Branco has sharply criticized the former government for meddling in domestic diesel pricing. In an interview last year with Reuters, he also complained about courts blocking Petrobras asset sales, which include four refineries and a pipeline subsidiary known as TAG, among many others.

His stance has delighted investors, who want the sprawling firm to slim down and consolidate efforts on core businesses, notably exploiting Brazil’s deepwater oilfields.

Yet some lawmakers, judges and unions fear Castello Branco will give away some of Brazil’s most prized possessions. They have pledged to get in his way.

“It’s the worst situation possible; he’s a fox in the hen-house,” said Eduardo Henrique, a leader of the FNP oil workers union, one of the nation’s largest.

“He’s come along to destroy the company … and confronting that is our big challenge.”

ROCKY TERRAIN

Castello Branco, an academic and former board member at Petrobras and iron ore miner Vale SA (VALE3.SA), is among a coterie of economically conservative officials in the Bolsonaro administration who were trained at the University of Chicago.

In Latin America, its pro-free-market graduates – who have at times in recent decades enjoyed significant sway over policymakers – are often referred to as “Chicago Boys.”

“It’s interesting that although he is a liberal, he’s going to be head of a state-run company,” said Carlos Langoni, an economist, who advised Castello Branco on his dissertation in the 1970s.

“He has been very consistent in his ideas about reducing the role of the state in the economy … he knows that state-run companies are exceptions.”

However, the extent to which Castello Branco will be able to put his liberal ideas into practice is in doubt.

Various courts in Brazil have suspended major Petrobras asset sales in recent months. The company is locked in a multi-billion-dollar dispute with the government over an oil producing zone known as the transfer-of-rights area, while the state has effectively required the firm to help front the bill for subsidized diesel purchases since June.

Castello Branco, described by many around him as exuding confidence, lacks the political experience of his predecessor Ivan Monteiro, who rose up the ranks of state-run Banco do Brasil SA (BBAS3.SA), deftly maintaining a healthy balance sheet even amid periods of intense government interference.

Slideshow (4 Images)

Castello Branco already ruffled feathers at Petrobras in December by setting up an office before taking on his role officially, sources said. He is due to begin formally on Thursday.

Brazilian voters have consistently opposed selling off public firms in part or in whole, even as they supported a candidate who promised to dramatically shrink the role of the state in the economy. That could also leave Castello Branco’s agenda vulnerable.

“A lot of people who voted for (Bolsonaro) didn’t agree with his ideas,” said Henrique, the union leader. “Next year there will be a big movement to confront the privatizations – specifically with Petrobras.”

Reporting by Gram Slattery; Additional reporting by Marta Nogueira, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

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Independent Consultant Beginner – 6 Should Have Pieces Of It Technology And Software

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Prima Wireless Earbuds Reviewhttps://primawirelessearbuds.net/.

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What Make Sure You Really Know Right Anyone Decide To Travel

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When traveling with children advised plan your route in advance. Do a little research and see as relevant and fun places to stop such as parks, museums or other attractions. Once you take breaks every non-chemical hours so everyone maybe even including the children probably get out and stretch their legs.

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Majority of Canadian workers willing to take less pay for a workplace pension plan: survey

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A majority (70 per cent) of Canadians say they’re willing to forgo a higher salary in exchange for a workplace pension plan, according to a new survey for the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan by Abacus Data.

The survey, which polled more than 2,000 Canadian adults in April, signals an opportunity for employers to build back the post-coronavirus pandemic working landscape better by expanding access to good retirement plans — whether they’re defined benefit, defined contribution or group registered retirement savings plans, says Steven McCormick, senior vice-president of plan operations at the HOOPP.

According to the survey, a secure retirement remains of greater concern for Canadians than concerns about their health, debt load and job security. McCormick says this has been a consistent worry the HOOPP has seen in survey results over the past couple of years. Nearly half (48 per cent) of respondents said they’re very concerned about having enough money in retirement, while 31 per cent were highly concerned about their personal debt load and 26 per cent cited their job security. Close to half of respondents expressed high concerns for their physical (43 per cent) and mental (40 per cent) health.

In addition, the pandemic has harmed the finances of more than half (52 per cent) of Canadians’ surveyed and it’s had a particularly disproportionate affect on the finances of younger adults. Adults aged 44 and younger said they’re twice as likely (25 per cent) to have had their finances greatly harmed, compared to those over the age of 60 (12 per cent).

Generally, younger adults tend to work in roles that may have been impacted most by the pandemic, says McCormick, whether in service industries that were shut down or frontline health care that have been busy but don’t always come with access to a pension plan. “Affordability is an issue, so I think their worries increased during this time.”

And while almost half (46 per cent) of Canadians surveyed said they’ve saved more money than they would have since the onset of the pandemic, among these respondents, over half (52 per cent) didn’t put any of their savings toward their retirement. Overall, most (63 per cent) Canadians surveyed haven’t set aside or saved anything for retirement in the past year, a five-point increase since 2019.

McCormick says this may be due to uncertainty or hesitancy about whether people’s immediate needs outweigh longer-term needs. And with 55 per cent of respondents noting they were very concerned about the cost of day-to-day living, he adds that rising prices have fuelled insecurity and worries so people are creating their own emergency funds right now.

While there’s a segment of the population who’ve saved more and, for them, the pandemic has created wealth, he doesn’t see this as a common narrative in the survey data. “If you don’t have access to a workplace pension or the opportunity to have things like automatic enrolment, the uncertainty of the time may have you holding onto money,” says McCormick. “In Ontario, we’re more optimistic about the pandemic than we were maybe a month ago, but there are still people worrying about whether there’ll be a fourth wave.”

In addition, more than two-thirds (67 per cent) of respondents said a retirement crisis is looming and 65 per cent said saving for retirement is prohibitively expensive. It’s a common and shared dream for many people in looking forward to a secure retirement, says McCormick, noting for many, making that dream a reality remains elusive.

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