HRT Names Milton Franke New Chief Executive

RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazilian startup oil company HRT Participacoes em Petroleo SA said Monday that Milton Franke will take over as chief executive, completing an unexpected management shakeup at the firm.

Franke takes over for founder Marcio Rocha Mello, who resigned as CEO late Friday. The company's board of directors opposed Mr. Mello's decision and had asked him to reconsider, but he ultimately declined. Mr. Mello will remain as a member of the company's board of directors.

Mr. Franke previously served as HRT's production director, joining the firm in 2009 after a lengthy stint at state-run energy giant Petroleo Brasileiro (PBR, PETR4.BR), or Petrobras. Mr. Franke's history with HRT and extensive experience in Brazil's oil industry will make for a stable leadership transition, said HRT Chairman John Willott.

HRT also said that Wagner Peres, president of the company's HRT America unit, resigned Friday. A replacement for Mr. Peres, who will remain a member of the company's board, hasn't yet been named, HRT said.

The moves come as HRT prepares for an auction of new oil and natural gas exploration concessions set for Tuesday and Wednesday. HRT, however, wasn't expected to be a big player at the auction--Brazil's first in five years--after a recent acquisition and as the company hoards its cash for its current exploration investments. HRT is focused on developing inland natural gas deposits discovered in Brazil's remote Amazon jungle as well as exploring for oil off the coast of Namibia.

Last week, HRT completed the purchase of a 60% stake in the Polvo offshore oil field in Brazil. HRT paid the local unit of BP Plc (BP, BP.LN) $135 million for the stake in the field, which produces about 13,000 barrels per day. HRT owns a 55% interest in 21 exploratory blocks in Brazil's Solimoes Basin. The company also operates 10 exploration blocks off the coast of Namibia and holds minority interest in two others. In April, HRT started drilling its first well in Namibia.

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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