Vale CEO ousted as Brazil seeks new blood before reorganization

epa03161987 Officials of the local Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau (CIQ) prepare to take samples of iron ore imported from India in the port in Rizhao in east China's Shandong province, 27 March 2012. Global miners Rio Tinto Group, BHP Billiton Ltd. and Vale SA, have decided to join China's new spot trading platform for iron ore, which will start it's test run on 29 March.  EPA/CHEN WEIFENG CHINA OUT



Brazil is moving to cast off the last shackles of government influence at iron-ore giant Vale SA — but not before replacing the CEO with someone more politically palatable.
Murilo Ferreira’s six-year contract won’t be renewed when it expires in May, the Rio de Janeiro-based company said in a statement on Friday. The announcement came days after Vale unveiled a plan to scrap its controlling shareholder pact amid criticism the miner was run like a quasi state company.
While the company didn’t say who decided Ferreira’s fate, analysts including Upside Investor’s Pedro Galdi say politics were involved. He took the CEO job in 2011 as part of a management shakeup driven by then-president Dilma Rousseff.
The current government of Michel Temer has sought to distance itself from authorities and executives with perceived allegiances to Rousseff, who was impeached last year.
“Clearly this is a political decision and Temer will have the final say in appointing the new CEO,” Galdi said by telephone from Sao Paulo. “This should be the last time there is political interference in appointing a CEO, as Vale is breaking down control.”
Brazil’s presidency didn’t respond to e-mails requesting comment. Vale’s shares fell 0.5 percent in Sao Paulo on Friday. Under Ferreira, 63, the company has been on a roller coaster ride.
Over that period, Vale’s shares lost about 30 percent as commodity prices tumbled amid slowing Chinese demand and expanding supply. In the past year, though, there’s been a sharp turnaround.
As the CEO stepped up cost- and debt-cutting efforts and prices recovered, the company’s stock jumped more than 250 percent, outperforming rivals. His efforts to focus on new deposits in northern Brazil were applauded by investors. That shift has culminated in a $14 billion mining complex in an area where ore quality is higher and costs will be lower. But back in Vale’s home state of Minas Gerais, the strategy riled politicians from the PMDB party, to which Temer also belongs.
While local political opposition would normally be of little consequence for an independently run company, Vale is controlled by a holding company whose owners include state pension funds and the country’s development bank.
Some PMDB lawmakers rallied behind criticism over Vale’s initial response to a tailings dam collapse at its joint venture with BHP Billiton Ltd. in November 2015.
Vale has defended both its initial and ongoing response to the Samarco disaster and its strategy to focus investments on low-cost deposits in northern Brazil. “I never entered the political arena to guarantee my term,” Ferreira said Friday on a conference call with journalists.
He said he had no knowledge if his successor would be an executive from the current management team such as Clovis Torres, the head of human resources, Peter Poppinga, the head of ferrous metals, or Luciano Pires, the chief financial officer. Local media also has cited Nelson Silva, the head of strategy at Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as a potential candidate. Petrobras didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

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