By Eyanir Chinea and Deisy Buitrago
Feb 23 Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA is in talks with international banks over refinancing the company’s debt, its president said on Tuesday, as the OPEC member country grapples with major bond payments amid an oil price rout.
“If the conditions are favorable, of course we’re interested,” Eulogio Del Pino said about potential refinancing as he exited the country’s National Assembly on Tuesday, adding the company was talking to international banks.
Del Pino had previously said PDVSA was mulling a proposal to extend payment for bonds that mature in 2016 and 2017 until 2018 and 2019, when the company has a lighter load.
Venezuela faces some $10 billion in debt payments this year amid a tumble in oil prices and a brutal recession, leading to speculation of default.
“No, we’re not going to do that, we’re taking all the measures for this not to happen,” Del Pino said of a possible default.
Economy Vice-President Miguel Perez, also at the legislature, told reporters Venezuela was making a “big effort” to pay debt and did not plan a sovereign debt refinancing.
“The state is going to comply with its debt … to keep a level of solvency in international markets,” he said.
Government officials have dismissed default speculation as a right-wing smear campaign. President Nicolas Maduro has noted the country last year covered roughly $10.5 billion in debt payments, even reducing imports in the scarcity-hit country.
Regarding PDVSA’s plans, it remains to be seen whether bondholders would be interested in a potential swap.
“You have to work on this right now, because it’s a complex operation,” said Luisa Palacios, managing director at consulting firm Medley Global Advisors.
“And for it to have any success, it has to be presented within the context of a more credible economic policy framework,” added Palacios, who tracks Venezuela.
Maduro last week devalued the currency and raised fuel prices, though critics dismissed the moves as insufficient.
It remains unclear whether what Maduro announced as a new “floating” exchange rate would actually be allowed to float, or become fixed like previous mechanisms and fail to satiate dollar demand.
Perez said details of the new exchange mechanism would be given next week. The country’s weakest exchange rate, known as SIMADI, is thought to be the one which the government said would float. Its rate on Tuesday weakened to 205.1 against the dollar, compared to 203 last week, but still a far cry from the black market level. (Additional reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Girish Gupta, Andrew Cawthorne and Alistair Bell)