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(Updates share price, adds comment on divestments)
By Gram Slattery
RIO DE JANEIRO, July 29 (Reuters) - Petrobras' Brazil-listed shares jumped almost 7% on Friday, hitting a 12-year high, after the state-run oil company smashed quarterly profit estimates and announced a record dividend payment.
The company announced on Thursday afternoon an 87.8 billion-real ($17 billion) dividend payout, the largest ever, sending the firm's shares up some 3.3% in intraday trade. After the market close, the firm posted a second-quarter profit of 54.33 billion reais, well above analysts' estimates, buoyed by higher margins in its fuel business.
The company was on track for its fifth straight day in the black, with accumulated gains this week coming to 16%.
Petrobras' share performance illustrates how the street has been wooed by a generous dividend policy, solid profits and high demand for the company's products given the supply crunch provoked by the War in Ukraine, even as the firm has spent much of 2022 in a management crisis.
The company has had four chief executives this year, and is set to replace its board in August. Should former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva win the October election - which polls indicate is likely - a major strategy shift would almost certainly ensue.
In a note to clients, analysts at Brazil's Itau BBA called Petrobras' dividend payment "very positive," saying it exceeded even the bank's "bullish" estimate.
In a call with analysts on Friday, executives said they expected the company's high refinery utilization rates to continue through the rest of 2022.
Utilization rates hit 99% this week, said downstream chief Rodrigo Costa e Lima, and they should average 86% through the second half of the year.
Executives also sought to assuage any concerns provoked by a recent policy change allowing the board to review domestic fuel pricing, saying board members have no veto power over executives' pricing decisions.
On the call, executives also said that the company's ambitious divestment program was still full-steam ahead. In particular, the company was positively surprised by the interest Petrobras had received for a number of refineries it still has on the block, said Chief Financial Officer Rodrigo Araujo
Preferred shares in the company were up 6.5% in afternoon trade, while the nation's benchmark Bovespa equities index had climbed 1.1%.
($1 = 5.18 reais)
(Reporting by Gram Slattery and Rafaella Barros; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Diane Craft)