Pdvsa concedes it raised debt to sustain dollar sales system
Venezuela's state-run oil company sold some USD 14 billion in bonds to the central bank in 32 months
When the Sitme began, BCV chairman Nelson Merentes explained it would be used to meet US dollar demand and tackle "speculation." Merentes also stressed that the system had been created in a way that it could feed back itself; therefore, it may last 50-100 years." The goal was partially accomplished only.
The system fed on bond sales by banks, particularly state-run banks, and Pdvsa. However, based on official data, the largest number of US dollar bonds was issued by the oil company.
By the end of 2012, Pdvsa balance statements showed that from the second half of 2010 through 2012, the industry issued some USD 14 billion in bonds to the BCV. This way, Pdvsa paid a large number of liabilities to the central bank (the BCV grants financial assistance to the oil company) and the latter obtained US dollars to meet the private sector's US dollar demand. The need for keeping up with the system not only led to a rise in Pdvsa's debt, but also hit the company's capability to meet its obligations in the future.
In August 2012, Oil and Mining Minister Rafael Ramírez admitted the State issued debt at high rates to maintain the Sitme. In an interview, he said, "We conducted an operation at a high interest rate. We are creating the conditions for keeping the dollar price under control through Sitme. This has been a successful policy that has helped us keep inflation below the target."
On January 28, however, Ramírez hinted the elimination of the system. "Sitme has been used for non-productive purposes," he said, adding that Pdvsa would no longer issue US dollar-denominated bonds. "It makes no economic sense for us to issue debt in dollars; that was for the Sitme. The Sitme forces us to issue bonds at a rate that greatly raise the price borrowing in international markets. The last operation was at 12.5%; that makes no sense. Pdvsa will go to the local market, as there is liquidity."
Translated by Jhean Cabrera
Cristian Fonseca, a businessman in La Candelaria district downtown Caracas, was doing the accounts in his small shop office on Sunday December 21, 2008. The Christmas shopping season kept him working late hours into the night. It was around 11 p.m. and his phone rang. A friend broke the bad news to him over the telephone.