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Did Venezuela Just Default?

Venezuela

S&P Global Ratings declared Venezuela in default just as the country’s Vice President Tareck El Aissami met with creditors to discuss the restructuring of its debt. According to reports from the meeting, it only lasted about half an hour and did not result in any agreement on how to proceed.

The ratings agency said Caracas failed to make a US$200-million payment on a debt until the end of the 30-day grace period. This, according to S&P was the final drop, after which the ratings agency lowered Venezuela’s rating to SD. Moody’s and Fitch Ratings are of the same opinion when it comes to the troubled South American country—home to the world’s most abundant oil reserves.

It looks like the idea to restructure as much as US$60 billion worth of bonds would be unsuccessful. Fewer than 100 bondholders showed up for the Monday meeting and, reports say, at least one turned and left immediately upon seeing two government officials in the room who were subject to U.S. sanctions: El Aissami himself and Finance Minister Simon Zerpa, who also doubles as CFO of state-owned PDVSA. An earlier announcement had promised there would be no subjects of sanctions at the meeting. Related: Don’t Back U.S. Shale To Keep Oil Prices Down

According to an opposition media outlet, the meeting featured El Aissami admitting the borrowing situation was difficult for Caracas and suggesting Venezuela devise a “sustainable” payment schedule based on the UN Resolution of Sovereign Debt Crises, but nothing specific was offered. In line with the general remarks, the Vice President assured the bondholders present that Venezuela will continue to honor its dues.

Fitch Ratings, which on Monday declared PDVSA in default, said restructuring the huge debt pile will be a challenge in the context of sanctions. The challenge would be even greater if what Caracas Chronicles says is true: that the Maduro government lacks the expertise in debt renegotiation of this magnitude.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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