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Venezuela To Make $949M Bond Payment To Keep U.S. Citgo Assets

Citgo buildings

Although Venezuela is regularly delaying or avoiding bond payments and is behind on billions of U.S. dollars in such payments, it is preparing to make a rare US$949-million payment on one bond, because that bond is backed by a stake in its key U.S. asset, Citgo, Bloomberg reports, quoting a person with direct knowledge of the plans.

Venezuela’s state oil firm PDVSA is getting ready to pay the coupon and partial principal repayment due on October 29 on 2020 notes, which are backed by a stake in Citgo.

Analysts say that Venezuela continues to consider Citgo as a very important asset and doesn’t want to open the door to investors who would lay claims on it if it doesn’t make the bond payment.

Although it’s not clear how much longer PDVSA will be able to continue servicing the payments on this particular bond, analysts at JP Morgan, Torino Capital, and Eurasia Group told Bloomberg that the government of Nicolas Maduro would make the payment due at the end of this month because it will want to hang onto this key asset as long as possible.

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“The government’s strategy with regards to various creditor obligations seems to be to avoid or delay paying wherever possible but pay or settle when valuable external assets are in jeopardy,” Bloomberg quoted a note by Risa Grais-Targow, a senior analyst at Eurasia Group, as saying this week. The analyst, however, notes that this strategy of Venezuela has its limits. The Maduro government faces declining export revenues from its only cash cow, the oil industry, where production continues to plunge.

But even if Venezuela makes the upcoming bond payment next week, it has to service other debts to keep control of its strategic U.S. asset, Bloomberg notes. Citgo itself has debts of US$3 billion, and some of it may have to be repaid. Earlier this year, Canadian gold miner Crystallex won the right to tap Citgo for compensation of US$1.4 billion for the forced nationalization of its assets by the Hugo Chavez government. Russia’s largest producer Rosneft could also claim Citgo shares, if PDVSA, which had pledged 49.9 percent in Citgo as collateral for loans from Rosneft in 2016, defaults on those loans.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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