In an interview in 2009, Aldemir Bendine, then head of Banco do Brasil, Brazil’s biggest bank, was asked about his favourite piece of wisdom.
“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails,” Mr Bendine told the interviewer on Brazil’s RedeTV, quoting US writer William Arthur Ward.
Appointed in February as chief executive of Brazil’s embattled Petrobras, Mr Bendine is today having to play both optimist and realist as he tries to extricate the state-controlled oil company from what is considered the country’s largest corruption scandal.
This week, the well-spoken career banker who was handpicked by president Dilma Rousseff to lead Petrobras completed an important first step towards its clean-up by releasing long-delayed audited financial results for last year.
Embroiled in a bribery scandal in which former executives are accused of colluding with politicians and contractors, last November Petrobras’ auditor PwC refused to sign off on the company accounts.
Failure to release the figures would have put Petrobras at risk of technical default on its large debt load under some of its credit covenants.
The 2014 results — R$6.2bn in losses directly related to corruption investigations and an impairment charge of R$44.6bn due to delayed refinery projects and the global oil price fall — staggered Brazilians.
But it could not have surprised the pragmatic Mr Bendine, who would have entered the company with his eyes wide open, given the gravity of the crisis there and the potential for board members to be sued over the scandal.
“He’s well-connected in the government,” said Sergio Lazzarini, a professor at São Paulo’s Insper business school. “He has worked for most of his career in Banco do Brasil.”
Hailing from the interior of São Paulo state, Mr Bendine’s father was a travelling salesman and his mother a housewife.
A hard-worker who sleeps five hours or fewer a night, he once said if he had not become a banker he might have been a soccer player — a goleiro or goalkeeper.
He is also an accomplished player on the political field. Under former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, he built Banco do Brasil into a consumer loan machine that supported the left-leaning leader’s agenda of boosting the spending power of the lower middle-classes. “Lula is the greatest leader this country has ever had,” Mr Bendine said in 2009.Petrobras’ shares fell sharply in February when news leaked that Mr Bendine — said to be close to the ruling Workers Party — would become the company’s chief executive. Investors feared he would not have the independence to free the company of the crippling political interference that made it a magnet for corruption.
“He is not the type of external CEO Petrobras needs if it wants to indicate it is severing some ties with the government,” said Mr Lazzarini.
While his background in finance might have been helpful in assisting the company to release its results, his next challenge could prove much harder.
Petrobras now needs to speed up delayed production plans and begin reducing its mountain of net debt, estimated at $106bn, in a climate of low oil prices. Without a reduction in its leverage ratios, credit rating agencies warn a downgrade could still be looming. For this task, he will need all the optimism and the realism he can muster. Fonte: Financial Times Online – 24/04/2015