Brazilian mining giant Vale named a new chief executive under withering government pressure, a move that may spark fears of state meddling in Brazil's private sector but is not expected to dent investor confidence in the firm.

Former Vale executive Murilo Ferreira, who returns to the company as CEO on May 22, will have to placate politicians' desires for more investment in steel mills while providing the massive returns delivered by outgoing CEO Roger Agnelli during his ten years in office.

Agnelli, who helped turn Vale into the world's largest iron ore miner, will leave the post after years of criticism by political leaders that he was not doing enough to spur Brazil's economic development.

Murilo Ferreira was indicated by the controlling shareholders from a list of three prepared by an international executive search firm, Vale said in a statement.

Vale's board will still have to approve the appointment, the company said.

Ferreira, 58, joined Vale in 1998 in its aluminum division and later went on to lead the Canadian nickel operations that the company bought in 2006.

He left the company in 2008, Vale said, adding he has been working in the mining business for 30 years.

The designation of an experienced hand rather than a politician with a heavy social agenda will likely be seen as good news by shareholders.

Investors are keen on Vale's extensive iron and nickel assets, low operating costs, and strong presence in China.

A choice that is more entrepreneurial and less political should be well received by the markets, said Danny Rappaport, who oversees about $120 million for Investport in Sao Paulo.

The move by President Dilma Rousseff to push for Agnelli's ouster has raised concerns of increased government involvement in Brazil's private sector.

The campaign to replace Agnelli also sparked protests by opposition politicians and a torrent of Twitter messages excoriating the move as a veiled state takeover.

Interference by the government could mar the image of the country as a promising place for investment, said Brazil's mining association Ibram in a statement posted on its website before the announcement.


Agnelli, 51, a former investment banker with Vale shareholder Banco Bradesco , instilled a culture of meritocracy that turned Vale into Brazil's No. 1 exporter.

In 2010, he led Vale's move to replace an aging iron ore pricing mechanism based on annual talks with a quarterly system that boosted Vale's revenues by billions of dollars.

For years, he enjoyed the respect of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

But Lula harshly criticized his move to slash investments and lay off workers in the wake of the 2008 global downturn and slammed Vale for buying cargo vessels abroad rather than having them built in Brazil, leading to years of tensions between Vale and the government.

Ferreira will have to mend those frayed ties, while also improving relations with suppliers, municipal governments and indigenous communities near Vale operations.

Another key task for Ferreira will be maintaining the ties that Agnelli built up with China, the world's largest iron ore buyer which was crucial to helping Vale emerge quickly from the 2008 financial crisis.

Ferreira will also need to seek a quick resolution to a dispute over a mining royalties debt that the government says could reach $2.4 billion.

(Additional reporting Bruno Marfiniti, Jose de Castro, and Guillermo Parra-Bernal in Sao Paulo; Editing by Raymond Colitt and Vinu Pilakkott)