By Lucia Kassai
PetroChina advised its U.S. unit to avoid any involvement in future loans to Petroleos de Venezuela SA after the U.S. imposed sanctions on Venezuela last month, according to people with knowledge of the situation.
PetroChina Americas has been an intermediary for much of the $45 billion in loans that China has provided Venezuela in the past decade. The company received jet fuel and gasoline blendstock as repayment of cash designated to develop Venezuela’s oil reserves, the world’s largest. PetroChina then exported some of the fuel to the U.S., according to Customs data compiled by Bloomberg.
While these types of transactions are common in the oil industry and have helped finance production from Iran to Brazil, the new U.S. sanctions against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro may change the playing field. A $2 million fine levied against Exxon Mobil Corp. in July for violating sanctions against Russia have made oil companies wary, according to Russ Dallen, a managing partner at Caracas Capital Markets.
“The sanctions didn’t appear to be much at a first look, but they are actually very harmful,” Dallen said in a telephone interview from New York. “After what happened to Exxon, everyone thinks twice before signing anything with Maduro or PDVSA’s money man Simon Zerpa.”Exxon to Challenge Treasury Finding It Violated Russia Sanctions
The U.S. sanctions against Venezuela restrict trading in new debt issued by the Venezuelan government and PDVSA. Exxon was fined for signing legal documents related to oil and gas projects in Russia with Igor Sechin, head of Rosneft OAO, who is on the Treasury Department’s restricted list of Russian nationals. Exxon is challenging the action.Not Renewed
While PetroChina’s old loans to Venezuela won’t be affected, they can’t be renewed, the people familiar said. The last deal signed between both countries was in November, when PetroChina’s parent, China National Petroleum Corp., loaned $2.2 billion to PDVSA in exchange for oil supplies.
Mark Jensen, PetroChina’s spokesman in Houston, declined to comment on the status of contracts. The company and its employees are fully committed to complying with the U.S. sanctions against Venezuela, he said. PDVSA didn’t return a call and email seeking comment.
China is the biggest buyer of Venezuelan crude after the U.S. Shipments to the country rose 15 percent to 425,245 barrels a day in the first half of this year, according to Bloomberg calculations based on China’s customs data.
Oil production in Venezuela fell to a 14-year low of 1.97 million barrels a day in June due to low oil prices and lack of investments, raising doubts about the country’s ability to service its debt. Last week, India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd abandoned plans to raise $304 million for a project in Venezuela.
Venezuela and PDVSA have combined debt payments of $3.53 billion in principal and interest due in October and November, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.