27 November 2014, News Wires – Independent player ConocoPhillips has accused Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA of using the sale of its Citgo Petroleum refining assets to hinder the ability of the Houston-based company to collect an expected arbitration award, according to a report.
Evidence indicates PDVSA is liquidating its Citgo interests “to remove the proceeds from the United States to Venezuela or elsewhere with the specific intent to hinder, delay or defraud its creditors,” ConocoPhillips said this week in a petition for court approval to investigate that claim, Reuters reported.
ConocoPhillips’ oil projects in Venezuela were nationalised by the government of president Hugo Chavez in 2007. At the end of that year US companies ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips introduced arbitration claims at several international courts.
ConocoPhillips said the claim it is investigating does not “seek to prevent a sale of Citgo or its assets for reasonable value, but to prevent the parties to the Citgo transaction from structuring the transaction to allow Citgo and its related companies to expatriate the proceeds.”
PDVSA was not immediately available to comment, Reuters said.
Bankers representing PDVSA have set a date of late December for prospective buyers to submit revised offers for Citgo despite the country’s finance minister ruling out the US refineries sale, according to Reuters sources.
A sale of the US refineries would eliminate the possibility of them being seized should a court considering such claims rule against Venezuela.
According to a July 2014 Citgo bond offering, the book value of Citgo assets was $8.1 billion at the end of 2013, according to ConocoPhillips’ petition, filed on Monday in a Harris County District Court.
The ExxonMobil case at a World Bank tribunal was decided in September, ruling a payment of $1.6 billion to ExxonMobil. Experts calculate ConocoPhillips’ case is at least three times larger than ExxonMobil’s because of the size and value of the assets.
In a partial ruling last year, the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) said expropriation of ConocoPhillips’ assets was unlawful. A final ruling is expected for 2015, according to Venezuelan officials and ConocoPhillips.
ConocoPhillips introduced a separate arbitration claim this year against PDVSA at the International Chamber of Commerce.