Petrobras Star CEO Comes to the Rescue of Brazil Food Giant

Pedro Parente, lauded for turning around Brazil’s state-oil giant Petrobras SA, agreed to become chairman of struggling food conglomerate BRF SA, a breakthrough that may end several weeks of fighting among shareholders over who will sit on its board.

The 65-year-old chief executive officer, who was previously a government minister and top manager at crop trader Bunge Ltd., has been brought in by BRF’s current chairman, billionaire Abilio Diniz, in an attempt to pull the company out of an unprecedented crisis. Pension funds Previ and Petros, which together own about 22 percent of BRF, have been trying to oust Diniz and replace the entire board amid mounting losses and curbs on BRF’s meat exports following a food-safety scandal.


Pedro Parente

Photographer: Patricia Monteiro/Bloomberg

Diniz sought a successor who would find broad support among major shareholders, his family office Peninsula Investimentos SA said in an emailed note late Wednesday. Petros and Previ said in separate statements they support the proposal, as did Tarpon Investimentos SA, which owns about 9 percent of BRF, and Aberdeen Asset Management, which owns 5 percent of the company.

BRF shares jumped 8.5 percent Thursday, the most among companies in Brazil’s benchmark index Ibovespa, pushing a two-day advance to 19 percent. The company’s $750 million in notes due in 2024 gained 1.7 percent to 93.5 cents on the dollar.

"It’s beyond a doubt that Parente will be chairman and there will be a board which is shareholder-friendly" and in which members are friendly to each other, said Peter Taylor, senior investment manager at Aberdeen.


Parente has won praise for trimming the biggest debt load in the oil industry amid low prices. Since taking over as CEO of Petroleo Brasileiro SA in May 2016, the company has settled a class-action case with U.S. investors, expanded its deep-water production fleet and pushed ahead with an ambitious asset-sale program.

If his name is approved at an April 26 meeting of shareholders, Parente will resign from the board of stock-exchange operator B3 SA, because of an agreement with Petrobras that allows him to serve only on one corporate board aside from Petrobras and its units, according to Peninsula.

Over the past few days, other well-know figures from Brazilian business have become official candidates for a post on BRF’s board, including Luiza Helena Trajano, the chair of department stores Magazine Luiza SA, and Vicente Falconi, a management guru and book author.

— With assistance by Sabrina Valle

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