Petroleo Brasileiro SA Petrobras (ADR) (NYSE:PBR) has received a penalty recommendation from a Brazilian antitrust regulator known as Cade.
The penalty recommendation was issued to the firm for practicing anti-competitive operations in the distribution market for natural gas. Cade issued a statement revealing its recommendation to the company earlier this week. Petrobras’ case is expected to be brought forward to a tribunal from the antitrust regulator though the date for the trial is yet to be announced. The investigations on the company were launched following a complaint brought forward by a rival firm known as Comgas. The latter is a natural gas distributor that competes with Petrobras in the same market.
Cade initiated investigations into the allegations and found out that Petrobras has been practicing discriminatory behavior since 2011. This is right about the time the firm introduced discounted prices for natural gas transported via its network. It, however, ended its discount in 2015. The company’s unfair pricing policy on natural gas from Bolivia negatively affected the gas distribution business of its rival. Cade reported that the state-operated company gave discounts to its own distributors whose operations were right next to Comgas in Brazil’s largest natural gas distribution market which is located in Sao Paulo.
Petrobras took a defensive approach to the matter, claiming that the complaint filed by Comgas did not feature a definitive decision from an antitrust regulator. The statement from the company further added that it would continue to uphold a firm defense of its rights. This means that the firm will try everything possible to make sure that it does not become the subject of a huge fine from the antitrust watchdog. If the probe finds that the company has indeed been carrying out anti-competitive practices, Petrobras might end up suffering a huge fine to the tune of millions. The company is currently waiting for the antitrust regulator to issue a date for the hearing which will determine whether it will be subject to a fine or not.