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Petrobras picks woman to head Brazilian oil giant

13 february 2012, 12:57
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. ©REUTERS/Swoan Parker
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. ©REUTERS/Swoan Parker
Brazilian state-run oil giant Petrobras on Thursday appointed Maria das Graças Foster as its new president, making her the first woman to head the company, AFP reports.

Foster, who President Dilma Rousseff nominated for the job, replaces Jose Sergio Gabrielli, the company president since 2005.

Foster, 58, spent her entire career at Petrobras. She joined the company in 1978 as a chemical engineer intern, and since 2007 has served as director of the gas and energy sector.

Famous for her "iron fist" management style, Foster is close to Rousseff, whom she met when the president was energy secretary for the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul.

Foster will be in charge of directing Petrobras' development of huge deep-water oil reserves off the Brazilian coast, which are estimated to hold 100 billion barrels of high-grade crude. The reserves could turn Brazil into one of the world's top crude oil exporters.

In 2010, Petrobras was the world's third biggest oil company with a market value of $228 billion, but in late 2011 was worth little more than $156 billion, according to market data published by the Brazilian newspaper O Globo.

"I experienced domestic violence in my childhood and life travails. I have always worked hard," Foster said in an interview with O Globo newspaper in September.

In 2010, the Latin American magazine America Economia called her the region's most powerful businesswoman, and the Financial Times listed her among the top 50 businesswomen in the world.

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