Market Overview

Has A New Era Dawned For Petrobras Shareholders?

Here's a an interesting trivia question that might win you a couple of bets here and there: True or false, over the past two years, the worst performing major global oil stock listed in the U.S. is BP (NYSE: BP)? Let's dispense with suspense and say the answer is false. That might surprise some. After all, the past two years includes the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Still, BP was able to shirk the dubious honor of being the worst performing major oil stock in that time. The "honor" goes to Petrobras (NYSE: PBR), Brazil's state-run oil company. News that Jose Sergio Gabrielli is departing as chief executive officer has lit a fire under the stock today as Petrobras ADRs are up almost 5% on what will almost certainly be stronger than average volume when the closing bell rings.

Maria das Gracas Foster, 58, will replace Gabrielli, 62, perhaps as early as next month. Gabrielli, who was previously the Brazilian oil giant's CFO, became CEO in 2005.

Under Gabrielli's stewardship, Petrobras announced new oil discoveries in Brazil's oil-rich pre-salt fields on a regular basis, helping vault the country to the second spot among South America's oil-producing countries behind only OPEC member Venezuela. Brazil is also one of just five countries around the world that boast of increasing oil production. And Petrobras is targeting output of over 6 million barrels per day by 2020.

Gabrielli also oversaw massive spending initiatives that may not have been acceptable had he not had the backing of Brazil's government, the largest Petrobras shareholder. In 2011, Petrobras commenced a $70 billion secondary share offering, the world's largest share offering...ever. Today, the company's five-year exploration and production budget stands at almost $225 billion. That's well above Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM), Chevron (NYSE: CVX), Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A), BP and any other oil major that can be viewed as being in the same league as Petrobras.

Despite the promising headlines about pre-salt finds, Gabrielli was unable to create shareholder value in the past two years as Petrobras ADRs were down 29% heading into the start of trading. As stated earlier, that's worse than BP's decline.

Worse yet, Petrobras' performance has been terrible compared to other state-run oil giants. PetroChina (NYSE: PTR) is up almost 30% in the past two years. Maybe a more relevant comparison is Colombia's Ecopetrol (NYSE: EC). That stock has more than doubled since early 2010. Not to mention, Ecopetrol, Colombia's state-run oil company, pays a dividend of $2.13 a share with a yield of 4.3%. Petrobras has a dividend of 16 cents a share and a yield of just 0.5%.

The bottom line is Petrobras looks good today, but those looking for exposure to the stock might do well to opt for a less direct route and buy the iShares MSCI Brazil Index Fund (NYSE: EWZ). That ETF allocates 19% of its weight to Petrobras.

Or the case can be made that Petrobras is cheap (8.1 times forward earnings) and that the darkest clouds have passed over the stock. Maybe it's time to pick some Petrobras poison, either the stock or EWZ.


ACTION ITEMS:

Bullish:
Traders who believe that Petrobras has more upside, might want to consider the following trades:
  • Long the stock outright.
  • Long EWZ for some exposure to Petrobras without overweighting a portfolio to that one stock.
  • Long Ecopetrol
Bearish:
Traders who believe that Petrobras may have more downside may consider alternative positions:
  • Short the stock.
  • Long the ProShares UltraShort Brazil (NYSE: BZQ)
  • Long the ProShares Oil & Gas (NYSE: DUG).
Neither Benzinga nor its staff recommend that you buy, sell, or hold any security. We do not offer investment advice, personalized or otherwise. Benzinga recommends that you conduct your own due diligence and consult a certified financial professional for personalized advice about your financial situation.

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