* Net income in the quarter was 7.69 bln reais
* Revenue rose 9.68 pct to 72.5 billion reais
* Net crude, fuel imports rose to 454,000 barrels/day
By Jeb Blount
RIO DE JANEIRO, April 26 State-controlled oil
company Petroleo Brasileiro SA said on Friday that
first-quarter profit fell 17 percent as oil-output fell, imports
soared and fuel subsidies ate up cash needed for investment.
While the result beat analyst expectations, the Brazilian
company failed again to fulfill a promise to reign in operating
costs, which jumped in almost every major category.
Net income in the three months ending March 31 fell to 7.69
billion reais ($3.85 billion), compared with 9.21 billion reais
in the first quarter of 2012. The average profit estimate of
five analysts surveyed by Reuters was 6.7 billion reais.
The result was little changed, falling 1 percent, from the
Production at Petrobras, as the company is known, fell for
nine consecutive months through February, compared with each of
those same months a year earlier. The reduction, the result of a
platform-maintenance program in the Campos Basin, forced an
increase in oil imports, while reducing exports.
As a result, Petrobras' net import of oil and refined
products, or the difference between exports and imports of crude
oil and fuels, rose more than nine-fold in the quarter to an
average 454,000 barrels a day.
The government, seeking to limit inflation, has also
prevented domestic fuel prices from rising at the same pace as
international oil prices, forcing Rio de Janeiro-based Petrobras
to sell fuel in Brazil at a loss.
That has squeezed profitability and forced debt to rise
beyond levels stipulated by Petrobras' own rules. Meanwhile, the
government, its controlling shareholder, is pushing Petrobras to
move ahead with a $237 billion five-year expansion plan, the
world's largest corporate spending program.
Net sales, or total sales minus sales taxes, rose 9.68
percent to 72.5 billion reais from 66.1 billion reais a year
earlier. The figure was in line with the average analyst
estimate of 73.4 billion reais.
Earnings before interest, taxes, amortization and
depreciation (EBITDA), a measure of a company's ability to
generate cash from operations, fell 1.76 percent to 16.2 billion
reais, compared with 16.5 billion reais a year earlier. That
beat the average analyst estimate of 14.5 billion reais.