On Wednesday Brazil’s massive quasi-state oil company Petrobras will report earnings that have been delayed since December of 2014.
Consider this a litmus test of the new Brazil — a way for the world to understand whether or not this emerging market can truly recover from corporate and political corruption. Back in November President Dilma Rousseff said that the Petrobras scandal may have the ability to “change Brazil forever.”
Petrobras was essentially used at the government’s personal piggy bank, ideally something that doesn’t happen in a transparent country with real rule of law. Since the scandal was uncovered, Brazil’s ruling party, the PT, and dozens of executives of companies who gave the party kickbacks in exchange for Petrobras contracts have been arrested. But what matters now is whether or not the company can walk-back from near ruin.
“Those who have a deeper understanding know that Brazil is one of the most transparent countries in the world,” the country’s Finance Minister Joaquim Levy said at a Bloomberg America’s Summit in New York this week. “Everything is discussed openly… people who do wrong things go to jail… This is why I’m confident about Petrobras, there has been a chance in the way it is managed.”
As a scheme it has been unsuccessful. Over the last year, the stock is down 35% — and that’s after staging a 56% rally in the last month alone. Investors are hopeful that the financial audit of the company coming on Wednesday will show that Petrobras is getting its house in order, but others believe that the company’s fundamentals are still rotten and with oil prices so low, transparency will not be enough to keep investors happy.
Famed short-seller Jim Chanos called the company “a scheme not a stock” after presenting his short thesis on the company at a conference in November. The presentation that sent Petrobras’ stock, and the entire Brazilian stock market, careening downward. According to Chanos Petrobras’ problem isn’t just with corruption. The other issue with the company was simply the Brazilian government’s mismanagement.
“They [the Rousseff regime] were doing fiscal policy through the development bank and through Petrobras,” economist Claudio Loser, founder of researcher Centennial Group, told Business Insider in October. “The company has been really suffering. Two years ago I would have said the company looked good.”
To assuage those fears, Petrobras’ board has been stacked with private sector executives and bankers meant to clean up its balance sheet.
“This is why I’m condfident about Petrobras,” said Levy, “there has been a chance in the way it is managed.”
The problem is that may not be enough.