The president of the Supreme Federal Court (STF), Luiz Fux, scheduled for Wednesday next week, the 30th, the trial that discusses the sale of Petrobras refineries. The case began to be analyzed on the 18th of July by the virtual plenary of the Court, but, after a request by the Minister Gilmar Mendes, the virtual trial was withdrawn on the 21st (Monday). Now, the discussion will start from scratch and will take place in a plenary session of the Court to be broadcast live on TV Justiça.
The ministers will judge a request by the National Congress, Senate and Chamber tables to prevent the sale of Petrobras refineries in Bahia and Paraná. The presidents of the Chamber, Rodrigo Maia (DEM-RJ), and of the Senate, Davi Alcolumbre (DEM-AP), consider that the company circumvented the legislation by transforming these companies into subsidiaries to transfer the assets to the private initiative without the approval of the Legislative. Before the virtual plenary was withdrawn, there were three votes against the government. Ministers Ricardo Lewandowski and Marco Aurélio Mello followed the vote of the rapporteur, Edson Fachin.
The sale of refineries is part of Petrobras’ divestment plan, announced in 2016, through which the company said it would focus on oil and gas exploration activities in deep waters. Using the State-Owned Companies Law (Law 13,303 / 2016) and a previous understanding of the Supreme Court, which gave prior approval to the sale of subsidiaries by the parent company without the need for authorization from Congress, the company initiated negotiations for the sale of these two refineries. The problem is that, technically, they would not be separate subsidiaries – like the carrier TAG and BR Distribuidora, already privatized – but, rather, assets of the Petrobras holding company.
For Congress, the company could not have transferred the refineries to new companies created just to be sold to the private sector. This would be an infraction of the Petroleum Law to circumvent another law, the one that created the National Privatization Plan, which prohibits the privatization of state companies that explore and refine oil.
On Tuesday, a day after the case was withdrawn from the virtual plenary session, the Senate and the Chamber reinforced the request to the Supreme Court to suspend the sale of refineries by Petrobras.
The Ministries of Economy and Mines and Energy have already said that the sale of refineries is in line with Petrobras’ strategic guidelines and objectives. The portfolios also assess that this measure by the state-owned company promotes free competition in the sector and preserves consumer interests.
The negotiation of refineries involves values between R $ 63.6 billion to R $ 83.6 billion, according to the accounts of XP Investimentos, which released a report on the divestment of the state-owned company earlier this month. This is the total amount that can be raised by the oil company if it succeeds in carrying out its plan to dispose of half of its refining field.