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Cablegate: Venezuela: Insights From Pdvsa's Senior Executive Director

VZCZCXRO2533
RR RUEHDE RUEHDH
DE RUEHCV #1246/01 2661424
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 231424Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3736
INFO RUEHHH/OPEC COLLECTIVE
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHEHAAA/WHITEHOUSE WASHDC
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CARACAS 001246

SIPDIS

ENERGY FOR ALOCKWOOD AND LEINSTEIN, DOE/EIA FOR MCLINE
HQ SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
TREASURY FOR MKACZMAREK
COMMERCE FOR 4332/MAC/WH/JLAO
NSC FOR DRESTREPO AND LROSSELLO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/21/2019
TAGS: EPET EINV ENRG ECON VE
SUBJECT: VENEZUELA: INSIGHTS FROM PDVSA'S SENIOR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

REF: A. CARACAS 564 B. CARACAS 581 C. CARACAS 748 D. CARACAS 852 E. CARACAS 1129

Classified By: Economic Counselor Darnall Steuart, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: XXXXXXXXXXXX provided insight into PDVSA's finances and strategy, saying that PDVSA plans to issue additional bonds in the coming months and to use the revenues to pay pending arrears to oil services companies. PDVSA has also negotiated payment in crude oil shipments for outstanding dividend payments to at least two of its joint venture partners as well as offering to let the companies use this debt to offset bonus payments in the Carabobo heavy oil bid round. XXXXXXXXXXXX detailed PDVSA's strategy to resolve its financial problems by the end of 2009 and commented on the expropriation of nearly 80 oil services companies in May 2009. Finally, XXXXXXXXX confirmed that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (GBRV) manipulates its Venezuelan Crude Oil basket index by including refined products in the mix. END SUMMARY.

PDVSA Readies New Bond Issuance to Pay Off Debts
--------------------------------------------- ---

2. (C) Petroleum Attache (PetAtt) interviewed XXXXXXXXXXXX, on September 11 when XXXXXXXXXXXX was identified on the visa line by an alert Consular Officer. In the wide-ranging interview, XXXXXXXXXXXX first confirmed that PDVSA was prepared to issue new bonds in the market. XXXXXXXXXXXX confirmed that one of the economic measures President Chavez would announce was the issuance of at least $3 billion in bonds to help control the parallel exchange rate (currently around 5.6 strong Bolivars (BsF) to the Dollar; the official exchange rate is 2.15 BsF:USD). Following the GBRV bond issuance, PDVSA is prepared to conduct several smaller USD-denominated bond issuances before the end of 2009 to raise USD in order to pay outstanding USD-denominated arrears to oil service companies.

3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed that in June PDVSA's outstanding debt to oil service companies equaled $6.5 billion in combined BsF and USD debt. XXXXXXXXXXXX confirmed that PDVSA's July bond issuance raised over 12 billion BsF, allowing PDVSA to pay off $3.4 billion in BsF-denominated debt to service companies. He admitted that PDVSA's current debt totals $4.3 billion (roughly $1.3 billion to mixed companies and $3 billion to service companies). XXXXXXXXXXXX insisted that PDVSA would pay off all debts by December 2009.

PDVSA Dividend Payments to Oil Companies
----------------------------------------

4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX admitted that dividend payments to some minority partners of PDVSA's mixed production companies were delayed, as the joint ventures had not yet completed financial audits. XXXXXXXXXXXX added, however, that PDVSA had reached agreement with several oil companies, including Chevron and Shell, to pay 2008 dividends in crude oil shipments. PDVSA has negotiated with other oil companies to permit them to use outstanding dividend totals as a credit in lieu of bonus payments for the Carabobo heavy oil bids.

Why PDVSA Stopped Paying Bills at Peak Oil Prices
--------------------------------------------- ----

5. (C) When questioned about why PDVSA stopped paying service companies in the summer of 2008 when oil prices peaked, XXXXXXXXXXXX explained that PDVSA's economic model predicted PDVSA would incur a large tax bill in December 2008 based on record oil prices. Confronted with this projection, PDVSA decided to cut back all payments to service companies and stockpile cash to meet its expected tax bill. The global market then crashed and local oil prices fell below $30/barrel, resulting in PDVSA's income falling $12 billion below estimates. At that point, PDVSA did not hae the resources to pay its bills. By the beginnng of 2009, PDVSA had implemented a new plan to pay its debts. XXXXXXXXXXXX mentioned that reducing day rates on drill rigs and issuing both USD and BsF bonds were part of PDVSA's long-term plan to recover from the 2008 crude oil price crash.

PDVSA and the Expropriated Service Companies
--------------------------------------------

6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that PDVSA had opened negotiations with a couple of expropriated service companies, using the Petroleum Chamber (CamaraPetrolera) as an intermediary in the talks. An internal PDVSA committee led by Jose Luis Parada and Carlos Diaz, has conducted audits to determine the value of the seized firms. XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed that internally, PDVSA expected to pay a total of $900 million for the nearly 80 seized companies.

7. (C) When questioned about the status of the expropriation ofU.S. firm Exterran, XXXXXXXXXXXX observed that the May 2009 Organic Law reserving to the state all primary activities related to hydrocarbons did not cover Exterran, and thus, the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum had not published an expropriation notice in the Gacetta (Federal Register equivalent). XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed that PDVSA was negotiating directly with Exterran to settle the seizure amicably. XXXXXXXXXXXX added that William's Wilpro and Accroven subsidiaries did not fit cleanly under the law either. (Note: Wilpro was expropriated on May 8 and the corresponding resolution was published in theGacetta. Accroven is currently negotiating its sale to PDVSA. XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed that Williams, Wood Group, and Exterran all had demanded increased rates and fees and had allowed service to deteriorate significantly, leaving PDVSA with no choice but to seize the operations.

PDVSA's Missing 2009 Financial Report
-------------------------------------

8. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that the report for the first half of 2009 was complete and pending PDVSA CEO Rafael Ramirez's approval. He noted that the report must be published by September 30 and had been held up due to Ramirez's frequent international travels. XXXXXXXXXXXX shared that PDVSA transferred $12.4 billion to FONDEN in 2008 and had transferred a total of $25 billion over the last several years. XXXXXXXXXXXX added that recent PDVSA transfers to FONDEN and the GBRV's missiones had been minimal.

Manipulating Venezuela's Crude Oil Basket Price
--------------------------------------------- --

9. (C) In response to PetAtt's question about the narrowing margin between the Venezuelan crude oil basket price and the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil index from over $13 in 2008 to less than $5, XXXXXXXXXXXX explained that the Venezuelan crude oil basket was not limited to crude oil, but included refined petroleum products. XXXXXXXXXXXX added that PDVSA conducted a study to verify the basket price, which is maintained by the MENPET, and determined that it accurately reflected revenue from all of PDVSA's sales of crude petroleum and refined products.

10. (C) COMMENT: XXXXXXXXXXXX spun a convincing narrative regarding PDVSA's challenges coming out of the global crash in oil prices. However, his assessment of PDVSA's liability for expropriated companies was not compelling and could leave one with the impression that PDVSA has no real intention of paying for seized oil assets, at least not in the near future. The GBRV's intention to issue new bonds to reduce the spread between the official exchange rate and the parallel rate is not expected to have a long-term affect and is not a new strategy. XXXXXXXXXXXX's admission about Venezuela's manipulation of its crude oil basket price reinforces suspicions about the Chavez administration's willingness to manipulate official government statistics.

DUDDY

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