CARACAS, Friday February 08, 2008 | Update
Pdvsa barred from selling USD 12.3 billion assets abroad

Courts in London and New York ordered freezing Venezuela's oil conglomerate accounts and assets in the US, England, Wales, the Netherlands, and the Netherlands Antilles, but the legal actions may encumber assets in other places worldwide

Venezuelan oil giant’s accounts and assets were frozen in connection with a complaint filed by Exxon Mobil with the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (Photo: Paulo Pérez Zambrano)
Friday February 08, 2008  10:58 AM


Two courts in New York and London ordered to freeze the assets and accounts of Venezuelan state-run oil firm Pdvsa around the world amounting to some USD 12.3 billion, at the request of US oil major Exxon Mobil.

The first court ruling came late in 2007, when Exxon Mobil had the US District Court for the Southern District of New York issue an order to freeze Pdvsa's accounts in US banks. This action translates into seizure of some USD 300 million, as it does not encumber the assets and accounts belonging to Pdvsa's affiliates such as Citgo and PDV America, Reuters reported.

In London, a British court ordered last January 24 freezing Pdvsa's directly or indirectly owned assets up to a value of USD 12 billion both in England and Wales, but the order provides for the possibility to extend the action to other countries where the holding operates.

Pdvsa owns a stake in two United Kingdom-based oil refineries, namely Dundee in Scotland and Eastham in England. Further, the conglomerate has two branch offices operating in London, one owned by the parent company and the other by Bitor.

The order the British court issued also hits Pdvsa's assets in the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles. Pdvsa operates Isla refinery in Curacao under a leasing agreement. The Venezuelan holding owns 5 million-oil barrel storage facilities Bopec in Bonaire.

Unofficial sources said a number of Pdvsa senior managers traveled urgently to London on Thursday. The Venezuelan oil giant, however, declined making comments.

Precautionary measure
The orders executed against Pdvsa's accounts and assets abroad came following a petition Exxon Mobil filed with the courts in connection with a complaint it filed with the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Exxon Mobil is seeking international arbitration following the Venezuelan state's takeover of strategic partnership Cerro Negro in Orinoco oil belt and La Ceiba -a shared risk and profits exploration agreement.

This is neither the only complaint filed with the ICSID against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela nor the only arbitration pending against President Hugo Chávez's government in the body. Following nationalization of oil projects based both in Orinoco oil belt and Paria Gulf last year, as well as the migration from operational agreements to joint ventures, US oil major Conoco Phillips and Italian oil firm Eni have filed two other complaints with the ICSID.

The ICSID is also dealing with other pending cases, such as the takeover of El Charcote estate -a complaint filed by Vestey Group- and the arbitration in connection with some debt titles issued by Venezuela -an action filed by Vanessa Ventures.

Pdvsa's debt bonds issued last year early this month started reacting to the US and British courts' order to freeze the corporation's accounts and assets outside Venezuela.
Pdvsa bonds maturing in 2017 dropped 3.64 percentage points in February 4-7, ending at 70.47 percent on Thursday. Pdvsa 2027 bonds fell 3.55 points, from 62.33 percent to 58.78 percent in the same period. Further, Pdvsa 2037 bonds lost 1.55 points over the last four days, from 60.63 percent to 59.08 percent.

Tumbling Pdvsa bonds Thursday dragged down the sovereign bonds, with Global 27 losing 2.4 points and closing at 98.7 percent.

Translated by Maryflor Suárez R.

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