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Petroleo Brasileiro S.A.-Petrobras (NYSE:PBR)
Q1 2019 Earnings Call
May 8, 2019, 10:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to Petrobras' webcast conference call with analysts and investors concerning its first quarter 2019 results. We would like to inform you that participants will follow the transmission by internet and telephone only as listeners. After an introduction, a Q&A session will begin, and instructions on how to participate will be provided. If you need help during the conference call, please call the operator by dialing *0.

We'll start by listening to Petrobras' CEO Mr. Roberto Castello Branco with the main highlights of the results. Afterwards, the participants' questions will be answered. The presentation will remain available throughout the webcast and on the company's Investor Relations website. Present with us today are Mr. Roberto Castello Branco, Petrobras' CEO; Mrs. Andrea Almeida, Chief Financial and Investor Relations Officer; Mrs. Anelise Quintao Lara, Chief Refining and Natural Gas Officer; Mr. Carlos Alberto Pereira de Oliveira, Chief Exploration and Production Officer; Mr. Eberaldo de Almeida, Chief Corporate Affairs Executive Officer; Mr. Rafael Mendes Gomes, Chief Governance and Compliance Officer, as well as other company's executives. Please, Mr. Roberto, go ahead.

Roberto Castello Branco -- Chief Executive Officer

Good morning for those on the west side of the Atlantic, good afternoon for those in the east side of the Atlantic, and good night for those in Asia, Australia, and the Asia Pacific region. We are very pleased to present the first quarter 2019 performance of Petrobras.

It was not a brilliant quarter, of course, but there are very good improvements on the side of that management deleveraging process continued. We lengthened the average maturity of the debt, we reduced the allocation for cash and liabilities in order to improve capital allocation, and I'm going to speak for a few minutes, and afterwards, I will leave the stage to Capo, our Chief Exploration and Production Officer, because he has good news for you in terms of production.

Well, on the strategic front, we made several advancements on the execution of our five strategic pillars. In terms of portfolio management, we announced that transactions involving $11.3 billion, among them the sale of TAG, the gas pipeline, and the closing of the transaction of the Pasadena refinery in Texas that's very symbolic, very important to us, given that it represents the [inaudible] Petrobras and in terms of the future where several of the assets to our divestiture program, and I think that they contribute to improve capital location in order to increase return on capital employed. They will allow us to deleverage further and to, in the case of the refineries, to correct what we consider an anomaly, the fact that Petrobras -- only Petrobras -- owns 98% of the refining capacity of Brazil. And for sure, it will contribute to increase our return on capital employed to stimulate increase in efficiency in our company.

We are starting a relentless search for lower costs. We are starting by focusing on the low-hanging fruits. There are several of them we are already attacking in these first four months of the year. In terms of meritocracy, our Board of Directors approved a valuable compensation program in order to align the goals of the executives and shareholders to continue to maximize value creation of the company. We started to work on an EVA program. Our goal is to make every employee of this company independent of his or her position in the company to feel like an entrepreneur in order to generate value for its own business. It's like everyone in this company, each employee in this company, is the owner of a small oil well and to expand his business creating value for his or her little business. We managed to put in place a demonstrative reform in order to gain more flexibility and speed on the decision process and to enhance accountability among our executives.

Well, I'll read my comments emphasizing our focus on safety of our operations. We are starting a program involving the training of 180,000 people, including our own employees and employees of suppliers in order to maximize the safety of our operations. We're also focusing on fighting crime. That means they steal of our pipelines, or our oil in full pipelines. This has been increasing in our operations in Brazil, and we are raising our intelligence teams in close cooperation with the police of several states and the Federal Police of Brazil and use of equipment such as sensors and drones and so on in order to be successful at fighting crime. We don't want to have an accident like happened in Mexico a few months ago.

Well, I complete my comments saying that our best days are still ahead of us. We strongly believe we are on the right path to maximize value. Having said this, I will pass to Capo for his comments on production and cost of production.

Carlos Alberto Pereira de Oliveira -- Chief Exploration and Production Executive Officer

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening. I would just say a few words about protection, but the first thing that I would like to say is that we are maintaining and changing our target or prediction forecast for 2019. I mean, 2.8 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. In the first quarter of 2019, we had a lower prediction comparing to the first and to the fourth quarters of 2018, and it was mainly due to the divestment that we had in the Roncador and also the sale of 8% of our share in United States operation, the company that you have there, the Petrobras America. And also, we faced some delays on the commissioning of our gas systems in the new platform, new units that we have put on stream. And also, we have some concentration in this quarter, in this first quarter of 2019, for the maintenance stoppage.

But with the start-up of the seven new production units -- P-74, P-75, P-76, P-77 of the Buzios Field, and P-67, P-69, and also the FPSO Campos dos Goytacazes -- seven units in the last 11 months, we are in the ramp-up phase in these units, and this for sure can assure you that we still can maintain our target oil production forecast unchanged for the 2019, the 2.8 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.

In April, we returned to the same level of production as the last quarter of 2018 when we considered the same asset base -- I mean, when we just don't consider the divestments that we made in 2018. And it is also important to mention that in May, on May 2nd, after 12 months of the first oil, we completed the ramp-up of the P-74 platform, and this platform is now producing in its maximum capacity of 150,000 barrels of oil per day with four wells on production. And so, based on this, based on the perspective we already have in April, we see that within the last 10 days after the entering of this new well, in the last 10 days, we are producing about 2.7 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, and in May we are producing over 2.8 million barrels of oil equivalent per day and with an upward trend. The production evolution keeps growing, and we are in this space in order to keep our growth for the year and our target of 2.8 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. That's what I had to say now.

...

Andrea Almeida -- Chief Financial and Investor Relations Officer

I believe we can open for questions right now.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

The Q&A session will now get under way. Each participant will be limited to at most two questions. Questions should be made consecutively, and we kindly ask you not to use the speakerphone. In order to pose a question, please press *1. To remove your question from the queue, press *2.

Our first question comes from Andre Hachem, Itau BBA.

Andre Hachem -- Itau BBA

Good morning. Thank you for the questions. My first question is in regards to production. Hello?

Carlos Alberto Pereira de Oliveira -- Chief Exploration and Production Executive Officer

Yeah, I'm listening.

Operator

You may proceed.

Andre Hachem -- Itau BBA

Good morning. Can you hear me? Hello?

Carlos Alberto Pereira de Oliveira -- Chief Exploration and Production Executive Officer

Yes.

Andre Hachem -- Itau BBA

Can you hear me?

Carlos Alberto Pereira de Oliveira -- Chief Exploration and Production Executive Officer

Yes, Andre. Please proceed.

Andre Hachem -- Itau BBA

Good morning. Thank you for the questions. I have two questions. The first one is in regards to production. Capo mentioned that the challenges relating to the ramp-up of the P-74 platform have now been overcome, and the unit is now running at full capacity in only 12 months. I would like to understand if it would be reasonable to assume that the same ramp-up rate for the new units or if this could be an even shorter ramp-up rate for the new units, given the learning curve of this first unit. I would also like to understand if in regards to this Campos Basin, what could be done to reduce the depletion rates that we've been seeing over the past few months.

My second question is in regards to the compensation for the deferral of production in the transfer of rights. In Petrobras' view, will this be a cash payment, and is this considered in the deleveraging target of 1.5 times net debt EBITDA? Thank you.

Carlos Alberto Pereira de Oliveira -- Chief Exploration and Production Executive Officer

Hello, Andre. About protection, yes. Our expectation now is that we have learned something about the P-74 and of course the first unit that went on stream and on the commissioning of the gas systems. They are very complex -- different than the units that we had before on the pre-salt, even on the pre-salt, and with this learning, what we can say is that we are going to proceed now with the ramp-up of those units, and that will sustain the goal of the prediction for the year.

About the Campos Basin, we have a lot of efforts on the Campos Basin. In the last presentation of our results at the fourth quarter of 2018, we mentioned that for the Campos Basin, not only we are working with Equinor and other companies in the strategic partnerships in order to have more oil from those fields, particularly in Roncador, but at the same time, we are working to have more oil from new wells that are going to [inaudible] in the old platforms that we have there. At the same time, we are buying some extra [inaudible], and then a lot of actions that we maintain a program of sustainability of the Campos Basin. Our intention is to keep production in the next years at the same level that we have today.

About the TOR compensation, could you ask again because I didn't get your question.

Andre Hachem -- Itau BBA

In regards to transfer of rights production compensation, in your view, will this be a cash payment, and are you considering this to reach the 1.5 times net debt EBITDA leveraged target?

Carlos Alberto Pereira de Oliveira -- Chief Exploration and Production Executive Officer

About the compensation, no, we are not considering it in our target, but this compensation is something that is going to be defined by the partners that are going to enter in the area, so there will be a bid at the end of this year, and so the new owners of the concession of the area will establish a negotiation in order to define what would be the compensation. But the compensation is not something that's open. In fact, it's defined, and very well defined, by the resolution of the [inaudible]. And also, another compliment that was made by the news of [inaudible] Brazil, so the parameters of this compensation is defined. The only thing that there is to define and that has to be negotiated is what we'll be producing in the field the next years, in each field the next years after the bid.

Andre Hachem -- Itau BBA

Would this compensation be in cash, or could it be, for example, in barrels or in up-taking of the production?

Carlos Alberto Pereira de Oliveira -- Chief Exploration and Production Executive Officer

No, it's part of the negotiation between the partners.

Andre Hachem -- Itau BBA

Perfect. Thank you very much.

Operator

Our next question comes from Frank McGaan, Bank of America.

Frank McGaan -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Good day. Just in terms of your production goals longer term, clearly, as you look at the chart on the slide on Page 30 of the presentation, you've got a number of units that have been defined when you get past 2020, but a lot of those have not been contracted yet, and it's less clear how you're thinking about long-term production growth. You obviously have resources that are very, very large that could be developed over time and raise production, but how are you thinking of the balance between your other goals of profitability, and the balance sheet, and longer-term growth in production? How do you see that will play out and what will be the opportunities here that we could get for potentially substantial additional production growth?

And then secondly, in terms of the profitability of the upstream unit, the transfer of rights areas have no special participation tax, so should we think of potentially a faster ramp-up now in overall profitability as a result of that?

Carlos Alberto Pereira de Oliveira -- Chief Exploration and Production Executive Officer

Well, Frank, about the long-term expectations for the production, in fact, we are keeping the same protection levels that we announced when we made our business plan for 2019 and 2023. So, until we have another strategic plan, we have the same targets for the production for those years, for the years to come.

And in terms of the profitability for the TOR, we for sure with this productivity and levels that we are having on those wells, we have good profitability, but at the same time, it's also planned in our business plan for the 2019-2023, the same answer I could say that I gave you for the prediction for the next year. So, it's all included, and we really have good profitability in those fields that are related to the TOR contract, but we have already included this profitability in our future perspective that we have for Petrobras.

Frank McGaan -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

The next question comes from Regis Cardozo, Credit Suisse.

Regis Cardoso -- Credit Suisse -- Equity Research Analyst

Good morning, Roberto, Anelise, Capo, and the remainder of the directors. Also, welcome, Andrea. Wish you the best of luck in this new mission you have. Also, if Carla is also on the line, also wanted to welcome her.

I have a few questions, mostly follow-ups. I'll try to be brief. One of them in regards to production ramp-up that's probably really best for Capo to answer. It seemed to us that the 2.7 million barrels equivalent a day, you mentioned the release for the last week of April would probably relate to something around 2.1 million barrels a day of oil production in Brazil, and that you would still have another 400,000 barrels a day to ramp up in the existing production that is already net of your divestment in Tartaruga. So, I wanted to know if you can comment on those numbers, if you believe them correct. So, 2.1 oil with a potential for the ramp-up of another 0.4 in existing platforms. And also, what do you believe to be the main risks to that ramp-up if it's gas commissioning, or is it something else?

Also, the second question would be to Anelise. It's in regards to the sale of refineries. If you already have a clear of whether it's possible to sell individual refineries and whether you would sell the logistics associated together because that logistics is often shared between more than one refinery, right? And so, a few very quick follow-ups. One of them in regards to the payment of IOCs. Company's been very vocal about deleveraging. Why announce now these early distributions? And then also a follow-up question on the low execution of capex, if you have any examples of why capex in the quarter was so much below what you had originally budgeted. Thank you.

Carlos Alberto Pereira de Oliveira -- Chief Exploration and Production Executive Officer

Hello, Regis. Good morning. About the production ramp-up and also about the Tartaruga fuel divestment, we are keeping the goal, that targets of 2.8 barrels of oil equivalent per day, even with the divestment of the Tartaruga fuel that we announced recently. And in Brazil, we are producing over 2.1 millions of oil per day, and we are going to grow this prediction after the ramp-up of the new units and the risks that we considered, the necessary risk and our risk management of the production, and we also included any risk that's part of the natural risks of our activities. So, the gas commission is something that we learned a lot when we started the position of the P-74 and that we have already used this learning on the commissioning of the gas systems on the other platforms that are going on stream. So, based on that, we keep the goal, the target of the oil production for the year based on that I have mentioned now.

Andrea Almeida -- Chief Financial and Investor Relations Officer

Maybe I'll try to cover Anelise that had to leave. We will have a teaser that will be in the market in the end of June, and we'll have the details on the sales of refineries. The idea is to do the sales individually, and only attach the oil pipelines together that are really connected to the refinery. That's the idea, but we'll have more details in June. And covering the dividends or interest on capital, the idea is why we are deleveraging, and I believe we still have a lot to do. The idea is to pay the minimum dividends that we are somehow obliged by law, and after we reach the goal, then we believe we'll be able to pay more to the investors. That's the idea.

Roberto Castello Branco -- Chief Executive Officer

Again, I'd like to point out that Brazil is one of the few countries in the world which has a minimum mandatory dividend. Of course, it's distortion. We are not a utility. We are all-in-all a company that's subject to price and cash flow volatility, but we comply with the law. We will pay dividends. We will pay the minimum dividends established by law. We believe -- we strongly hope -- that in the future, the law on capital markets in Brazil will be modernized.

Regis Cardoso -- Credit Suisse -- Equity Research Analyst

Thanks. If you'll allow me just a few follow-ups in regards to the interest on capital, if I understand it correctly, you'll continue to provide intermediate distributions of both dividends and interest on capital. And then also, in regards to the capex question, if you have any examples of why execution was below budget. And finally to Capo, it seemed like you have an inventory of drilled wells that is well in advance of your expected first oil date for the [inaudible]. If this is indeed the case, then why is that? Thank you.

Roberto Castello Branco -- Chief Executive Officer

[Inaudible], we have a long to-do list. One item is to establish a very clear dividend policy and disclose it to the market we're still in the process of making. Capo?

Carlos Alberto Pereira de Oliveira -- Chief Exploration and Production Executive Officer

And about the capex question, we're facing this delay on the commission of the gas systems. At the same time, we postponed it as well, the construction of some wells, so for sure the interconnection of those wells to the platforms. So, that's the reason why we have this reducing on the capex of the first quarter, particularly for the P-70s -- the P-74, P-75, P-76, and P-77 -- in this field. At the same time, now if you're assuming building and completion of those wells, and we are maybe getting them ready to increase the start-up in the next month, and that's the reason for sure that we are going to increase the production, mainly in the [inaudible] to see higher productions in the next semester in order to keep the goal, the target for the 2.8 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2019.

Operator

Our next question comes from Christian Audi, Santander.

Christian Audi -- Banco Santander -- Oil and Gas Analyst

Thank you, Robert. Welcome, Andrea and Carla. I had two questions, the first one of return on capital employed and the second one on cash flow generation. Roberto, on return on capital employed, the company has already stated a target, which I think is very positive in that not many oil companies do that in the world of 11% medium term. My question is given your recent announcement of you trying to sell the eight refineries, which I would think have a lower return on capital employed than the upstream assets, do you feel that you could actually surpass that target in a shorter period of time than initially said in the plan, or you feel that 11% is really the target that is ambitious enough for you at this point?

The second question has to do with cash flow generation. Even in this quarter, it remains strong, given what you and Capo were saying about production growth. We would expect this cash flow to continue growing. So, can you talk a little bit about capex, whether you feel current levels could actually increase or could decrease, and therefore obviously impact this cash flow generation? Thank you.

Roberto Castello Branco -- Chief Executive Officer

Well, I believe that's three questions. Thank you for asking, Christian. First of all, the return on capital employed of the target of 11% is for sure aggressive because we, at least in the last few years, we have been far away from it. But I believe it's feasible. It's not easy, and when it was announced, it was not supported by initiatives that would allow us to meet this target. Now, we are launching several initiatives in terms of divestitures and cost cutting that will make it possible. But I still believe that it won't be easy. So, we don't want to overpromise and not delivering. That's 11%. That's a good target, and we'll go for it very strongly. The question was related to cash flow generation. Yes, definitely it's what we are laser focused on increasing cash flow generation to the acceleration of oil and gas output -- Capo has explained about that -- and to cost cutting.

And the third question was about capex. We are going to review internally capex. It's likely to be overestimated for the year, and we are going to analyze the cause, why we are running low on capex, if it's a problem of overestimation of capex, or it's a question that we are being slow in procurement in the internal process of making the disbursements, or how much of it is obtained through cost reductions in the procurement of equipment and parts. So, it's still a question to be analyzed. At the moment, I am not able to give you a good answer about that. We are going to review it, and after this review, I believe that we'll be able to supply you with a good answer on that subject.

Christian Audi -- Banco Santander -- Oil and Gas Analyst

Thanks, Roberto. And you plan to announce a strategic plan update I guess where you would address this capex, or do you have already an idea of the timing of when you would do the next update for a strategic plan or not yet?

Roberto Castello Branco -- Chief Executive Officer

We are making it gradually. As you have seen, we launched a resilience plan that added several assets to our portfolio of divestitures. We announced a cost reduction goal of $8.1 billion over the next five years. It could be more [inaudible] depending on our speed of implementation of this transformation program. When we review the capex budget for 2019, we are going to disclose it if we needed to reduce or to increase, but anyway, the capex budget does not include our expenditures with the options that will happen in the second half of this year.

Christian Audi -- Banco Santander -- Oil and Gas Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

The next question comes from Vincent Falanga, Bradesco BBI.

Vicente Falanga -- Bradesco BBI -- Analyst

Thank you very much. First of all, congratulations for the company and the [inaudible] department for the additional data disclosed in the press release. The data's really helpful for interpretation and some modeling. I just had two questions here. First of all, Roberto, it was announced that Petrobras intends to substitute the participation of employees and earnings for bonus compensation based on certain targets. We think obviously the idea is very positive to align the interests of shareholders with employees. On the other hand, based on what we have read in the media, some union representatives are obviously against it claiming that it will not be legally possible for the company to do that. My question is what is Petrobras' legal conviction that it could be able to implement this change? And then my second question, how long does Petrobras estimate that it could sell the addition 10% stakes in NTN and NTS? Could this happen any time soon? Thank you very much.

Roberto Castello Branco -- Chief Executive Officer

First of all, regarding the compensation program, it's implemented. Everybody knows the targets, and everybody is aware of that. Our human resource department has been doing the job, and it's in place. For 2020, it would be modified to include EVA. The EVA program is being implemented. We are working hard on that. A few days ago, we had the official start up of the EVA work with a speech of Joel Stan, one of the founders of EVA jointly with Bennett Stewart. He came to Brazil specifically for this event, and our teams are working with Stern Value management on the implementation of this important program.

Your second question's about...?

Vicente Falanga -- Bradesco BBI -- Analyst

You mentioned, Roberto, in the press release that Petrobras could sell the additional 10% stakes in NTN and NTS?

Roberto Castello Branco -- Chief Executive Officer

We are going to sell. We are going to sell as fast as we can the remaining 10% at NTS and [inaudible]. First, we are going to close the deal with [inaudible], and after that, we will start the efforts to sell both of our stakes in these two gas pipeline companies.

Vicente Falanga -- Bradesco BBI -- Analyst

Perfect. Thank you very much.

Operator

The next question comes from Gabriel Francisco, XP Investimentos.

Gabriel Fonseca Francisco  -- XP Investimentos -- Equity Research, Utilities and Energy

Hello, everyone. Thank you for taking my questions. My first one is regarding the refining results. Ever since the company has begun implementing hedges for stated purposes of amortizing the effects of volatility, the bottom-line effect is that refining margins haven't actually recovered to the pre-hedging prices. They have particularly underperformed the previous results. I wanted to understand better what is going on in this front. What are the cost in sales to practice hedges because in my understanding, they intend to amortize the effect of oil price volatility, yet the company continues announcing its results that the refining margins were lower due to a higher stock effect -- on inventory, sorry -- on inventory. That's my first question.

My second question refers to the E&P segment. I wanted to understand the rationale of the deep water investment in Sergipe, which is expected in the business plan. Given the company's rhetoric of focusing on the pre-salt, I wanted to understand what are the particular areas of the investments that justify an investment? Thank you very much.

Andrea Almeida -- Chief Financial and Investor Relations Officer

So, I can start answering the question about the hedging and the impact on the refineries' results. Actually, the hedging that we have been doing is really to cope with the import parity. So, whenever we are setting a fixed price for the market, we are hedging to keep the import parity. So, the volatility in the EBITDA that you see in the refinery result, actually, there has more. The reason is more related to the cost of oil that they are using whenever processing, so we see the fourth quarter drop in maybe that generation, and that's because they are using for sure oil from the previous quarters where the oil was much higher.

And in the next quarter, like the first quarter of 2019, we see the unimprovement, and they are still using higher cost oil for sure, but not as much impacted as the fourth quarter, and they increased the volume sales, so they had a better result. But I wouldn't say that there is a connection between the hedging because the hedging is just to keep the import parity. I believe the way the refineries work and when the leg between the price of oil they use in their processing, that's the biggest impact. [Inaudible] Capo.

Carlos Alberto Pereira de Oliveira -- Chief Exploration and Production Executive Officer

Gabriel, thank you for the question about the rationale for investment in Sergipe deep waters. It's our strategic E&Ps to work. We are a deep water company. And at the same time, this is a new province where we have the idea to invest. But at the same time, we have to remember that that Sergipe is also in our partnership program. We want to invest there as a new frontier, and we always do that with a partner that we are at this stage in this process.

But for sure, there is a rationale in this because we are a deep water company, and what we work on the pre-salt, we work on the Campos Basin, though at the Campos Basin where we have almost 40% of our production, it's not pre-salt, but it's also very important for our production, and it's also important for the grooming of our production regarding the Campos Basin, for instance. We have introduced this concept to work with in strategic partnerships at Roncador field, for example, with Equinor. And also, we are buying some areas for the new areas to explore the Campos Basin. So, the rationale is very clear. Our perspective is to work in deep waters. That's where we have the necessary capacity and the capabilities for salt, and also at the same time, this is a new frontier area. We are going to do this with our partner there.

Gabriel Fonseca Francisco  -- XP Investimentos -- Equity Research, Utilities and Energy

Thank you, Anelise and Cap, that very clear.

Operator

Thank you all. At this time, the Q&A session of Petrobras webcast and conference call is over. Mr. Roberto Castello Branco will now make his final remarks. Please, sir?

Roberto Castello Branco -- Chief Executive Officer

I'd like to thank you for participating in our conference call today. It's always a pleasure to talk to you, and as I said, our best days are still ahead of us. We have world-class assets, we have a strong team, highly committed to deliver value, and we have the technology. These are the key points in our strategy, and we'll do that. Thank you.

...

Operator

Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, the audio of this conference call for replay will be available on Petrobras' Investor Relations website at www.petrobras.com.br/ir. Thank you very much for your participation and have a great day.

Duration: 46 minutes

Call participants:

Roberto Castello Branco -- Chief Executive Officer

Carlos Alberto Pereira de Oliveira -- Chief Exploration and Production Executive Officer

Andrea Almeida -- Chief Financial and Investor Relations Officer

Andre Hachem -- Itau BBA

Frank McGaan -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Regis Cardoso -- Credit Suisse -- Equity Research Analyst

Christian Audi -- Banco Santander -- Oil and Gas Analyst

Vicente Falanga Neto -- Bradesco BBI -- Analyst

Gabriel Fonseca Francisco  -- XP Investimentos -- Equity Research, Utilities and Energy

More PBR analysis

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