Petroleo Brasileiro (NYSE:PBR) (Petrobras to its friends), which has made more discoveries of late than Christopher Columbus on a high, has also accomplished what other major oil companies have done in the past few weeks: It rode sky-high crude prices last summer to record numbers for its September quarter.

The company earned 10.85 billion reals ($5.71 billion as of the end of the quarter), or 1.24 reals per share ($1.40 per ADR), nearly double the 5.53 billion reals it chalked up in the year-ago quarter. Analysts had been looking for income of about 10.1 billion reals on revenue of 56.1 billion reals. Petrobras's total oil and gas production was up 5.5% year over year. For the third quarter, average oil prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange were up 57% year over year.

Petrobras thus joins such other international oil companies as Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM), Chevron (NYSE:CVX), and BP (NYSE:BP) in reporting solid results for the third quarter, which began with crude prices above $145 a barrel in July. Since that time, those prices have plummeted, virtually guaranteeing that profits for the group will decline dramatically in the current quarter.

Petrobras has lately been the darling of the oil patch, with several major discoveries in the deep waters off its coast. For instance, its Tupi field appears to contain about 8 billion barrels of oil, making it the largest discovery in North or South America during the past three decades.

But with the world being hit by a worsening credit crunch, and crude prices now below $60 per barrel, the company's ability to finance the development of its discoveries has become questionable. As a result, in December, management will release a review of its 2009-2013 investment plan, which had been expected last month.

In the meantime, the company is keeping deepwater drillers Transocean (NYSE:RIG) and Diamond Offshore (NYSE:DO) busy off its shores. Also, as October came to a close, Petrobras signed a multi-year joint exploration and production agreement with Cubana de Petroleo (or Cupet), Cuba's national oil company.

Like most energy companies, Petrobras has seen its shares slide like tots on a playground since spring. My advice to Fools is to wait until the current crude-price retreat appears to have run its course, and then to consider slowly acquiring the company's shares with an eye to long-term appreciation.

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith owns neither any of the companies mentioned nor a single real. He does, however, welcome your questions or comments. The Fool has a disclosure policy.