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Why the government is asking more state-owned dividends

The Ministry of Economy asked the four largest state-owned companies controlled by the Union – Petrobras, BNDES, Banco do Brasil and Caixa – to evaluate the possibility of anticipating the payment of new dividends to the federal government, according to informed on Monday (25) the special secretary of the Treasury and Budget, Esteves Colnago. Dividends are part of a company’s profit divided among its shareholders.

“We sent a general letter in which we ask them to study the possibility, respecting the investment policy and any Basel requirements [exigências mínimas de capital para bancos]what they can eventually pay in dividends and whether they can, this year, pay quarterly rather than semi-annually,” he said.

If carried out by the companies, the measure would withdraw resources from the 2023 cash and directly affect the accounts of the next government. But it was the solution found by the economic team to fund the billionaire expenditure package generated by Constitutional Amendment 123/2022, which expanded a series of social benefits, and by Complementary Law 194/2022, which temporarily zeroed PIS, Cofins and Cide rates. of gasoline and ethanol.

Constitutional Amendment 123, which during the course of Congress became known, among other names, as PEC on Benefits or PEC Electoral, increased the minimum amount of Auxílio Brasil to R$ 600, doubled the value of the gas voucher and created vouchers for truck drivers and taxi drivers, generating an additional expense of R$ 41.25 billion for the Union until the end of the year. All measures are valid only until December.

Added to the withdrawal of federal taxes on fuel, which will cost another R$ 16.5 billion, the value of unforeseen expenses reaches R$ 57.75 billion, which the government tries to cover with extraordinary revenues, so as not to breach the Law of Fiscal Responsibility (LRF).

In order to circumvent the spending ceiling, which limits the increase in public spending to inflation, the report by the PEC on Benefits, by Senator Fernando Bezerra Coelho (MDB-PE) and articulated with the government, already provided for the use of dividends from federal state companies to pay part of the package. At the time of the presentation of the opinion, Bezerra Coelho estimated that the funds would be between R$ 20 billion and R$ 30 billion this year.

Extraordinary Union revenues already total R$ 43.34 billion

According to the Primary Revenue and Expenses Report, revenues not managed by the Tax Authorities have already reached R$ 43.34 billion in the third two months, of which R$ 26.87 billion refer to concessions and permissions – almost all arising from the privatization of Eletrobras – and BRL 18.83 billion in dividends and participations, the majority (BRL 18.6 billion) referring to profits calculated by BNDES in 2020 and 2021 and paid before the official letter is sent.

With this, it is estimated that by the end of the year, if the companies’ current schedules are maintained, the government will receive R$ 54.8 billion in extra revenues, which would represent a 27.4% increase compared to 2021, when the Federal Government received R$43 billion in dividends and interest on equity (JCP).

For now, there are no calculations of how much more the government can receive if state-owned companies comply with the request, since the balance sheets for the first half have not yet been closed.

“Today we have BRL 44 billion – BRL 26 billion from [privatização
da] Eletrobras and another BRL 18.6 billion [de dividendos] from BNDES. So part of this expense, in a way, was already borne with revenue that wasn’t coming in. But we would like a part of the revenue lost with the tax waiver [sobre combustíveis] paid for these dividends,” Colnago said at the report’s presentation press conference.

“You have the BNDES, for example, which can pay up to 60% of dividends, and it usually pays below that. What we are asking is: are you able to approach 60%? You can, in this exercise, change the policy [de distribuição de dividendos] from semiannual to quarterly?”, he explained.

Petrobras Board will deliberate on the payment of new dividends

According to the secretary himself, Banco do Brasil responded to the correspondence stating that it is not possible to change the form of payment of dividends. The bank already pays shareholders every three months, with a distribution of 40% of the profits.

In a statement to the market, Petrobras informed that all requests included in the official letter were already included in its shareholder remuneration policy, including the quarterly frequency of profit distribution. “There is still no decision taken on new dividend payments in 2022,” the document reads.

The company’s second quarter financial results will be released this Thursday (28), when the Board of Directors may decide on possible new dividend payments.

Analysts at investment bank Credit Suisse believe that Petrobras may announce a distribution of up to R$75 billion, although sources close to the state-owned company heard by the Broadcast agency estimate a figure close to R$40 billion. As the majority shareholder, the Federal Government is entitled to most of the value.

According to bank sources interviewed by O Globo, Caixa Econômica and BNDES must comply with the request of the federal government and expand the transfer of dividends this year. Today, Caixa transfers 25% of its profit to the federal government. The trend is for this percentage to rise to 50%. The BNDES, on the other hand, should make the transfer of quarterly dividends instead of half-yearly.

The anticipation of dividends can help the government even close the accounts in the black after eight years of deficit. According to Colnago, the economic team has already works with a projection of a fiscal deficit “very close to zero” or a surplus, “albeit small”.

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