When Petrobras’ Pedro Pullen Parente took to the stage at this year’s ONS his voice was shaking.
The company leader attributed his nerves to ONS’s highbrow audience, which included Norway’s Crown Prince.
“We are not used to seeing royal people in my company,” he said.
His nerves vanished as he addressed head-on his company’s embattled reputation.
“When I was coming to Norway, I read a note in a newspaper in Brazil saying Mr Pullen Parente will go to Norway to a seminar called Transition. Ironically, there is not a better word to represent what is going on in my country right now.
“When you add in all the issues of what is going on in Brazil you can imagine why it was said I have a very tough life.”
The company leader’s address came hours before Brazil’s suspended President Dilma Rousseff took to the stand at her impeachment trial.
Petrobras endured its own trial of reputation after the infamous Carwash case was mounted against it. The case was coined with the moniker after Brazil’s version of the FBI made its first raid on a petrol station – a raid which would later serve as the first chapter of the corruption scandal.
“It was unimaginable that in two years we would see what we saw and as the CEO of Petrobras I really regret it has happened in our house, in our company,” he said.
The “shame” of the scandal has overshadowed the company’s deepwater breakthroughs, according to the company boss.
“It is part of my job to recover the pride of our company, of our people,” he added.
But the company’s woes don’t stop at its bruised pride. Brazil’s economy has shrunk by about 10% over the past three years.
Despite the hardships, the company has answers, Pullen Parente said.
“We need to be sure we are not going to see this happen again in Petrobras,” he said.
“It’s about working well and saving money. That’s what you’re supposed to do for your shareholders.”
The company has turned its attention to strengthening its governance. Every decision needs to be made by at least three people now.
Pullen Parente said: “It may sound strange for executive people to say you cannot have any single decisions in your company? But that’s very important for us.”
The operator is also focusing on its partnerships with the likes of Statoil – which has seen the firm reduce its pre-salt drilling costs by 58%.
Petrobras’ debt is still five times its cash generation. The explorer is targeting a 50% reduction by 2020.
“We are going to have another two years of very strong targets of partnerships and divestments,” the chairman added.
When asked how firms can continue to trust his company, the Petrobras boss said: “Even in our worst period we kept very good relations and partnerships and it’s interesting that our best experience in partnerships is in upstream.
“I think it’s important people know that when you have the right partners you will do very well.”