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US Treasury extends Venezuela order blocking potential Citgo seizure through January

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US Treasury extends Venezuela order blocking potential Citgo seizure through January

Highlights

Protects refining assets after PDVSA missed bond payments

Platts Analytics estimates September output at 300,000 b/d

Washington — The US Department of the Treasury on Oct. 6 again extended for three months an order preventing creditors of Venezuela's state-owned oil company PDVSA from taking control of US refiner Citgo as a result of missed payments on its 2020 bonds.

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The license, which was set to expire Oct. 20, now runs until Jan. 19, the day before the US presidential inauguration.

PDVSA missed a key payment on the 8.5% bonds in October 2019, setting up the possibility of losing US refiner Citgo, its most valuable overseas asset.

In several lawsuits working their way through US courts, Venezuela's creditors have tried to collect on old debts by seizing Citgo assets.

In November 2019, the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld a decision allowing defunct Canadian miner Crystallex to auction shares in Citgo to collect on a $1.2 billion judgment related to Venezuela nationalizing its gold mine. The US Supreme Court in May declined Venezuela's request to reconsider the ruling.

While the Court of Appeals' decision stands, any creditor seeking to seize Citgo assets would need specific approval from Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control.

The Trump administration has shown an interest in blocking that from happening because it would deal a severe blow to the interim administration of Juan Guaidó, the self-declared interim president of Venezuela.

Treasury has encouraged PDVSA and bondholders to keep negotiating a plan to restructure or refinance the debt, saying OFAC would have a "favorable licensing policy toward such an agreement."

Production collapse

Venezuelan oil production fell to 340,000 b/d in September from 360,000 b/d in August, according to the latest US Energy Information Administration estimate released Oct. 6.

S&P Global Platts Analytics estimates September production at 300,000 b/d.

Platts Analytics expects Venezuelan supply to be capped at 300,000 b/d through the end of 2021, since most international buyers ceased deals with PDVSA after the departure of Russia's Rosneft and tightening US sanctions that have cracked down on shipping companies facilitating the country's exports.

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