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(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s state-run oil company is opening an office in Switzerland, the latest step in the cash-strapped firm’s struggle to survive amid tighter U.S. sanctions and declining production.
Petroleos de Venezuela SA officials, including President Nelson Martinez, traveled to Geneva in mid-September before the new branch’s ribbon-cutting, according to company memos and emails shared on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were private. The documents said Martinez would chair the board of the Swiss office.
On Sept. 29, a company called PDVSA AG was registered in Zurich under the name of Jetmir Demiri, Swiss filings show. Its address is along the bank of the Schanzengraben Canal. The firm’s stated purpose is the international trade of parts, including computerized machinery equipment, as well as investment consulting and infrastructure development for oil and gas firms. PDVSA AG has registered share capital of 100,000 Swiss francs.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro perplexed traders last week by pledging to refinance and restructure the nation’s foreign bonds. His vice president, Tareck El Aissami, who’s leading the restructuring, said the oil firm’s debt will be included in negotiations after PDVSA pays its bond due Nov. 2.
More than a half-dozen bondholders in New York and London said they haven’t yet received payment on the notes. The implied probability of the company defaulting during the next five years climbed to an all-time high of 99.99 percent on Thursday, according to credit-default swaps compiled by Bloomberg.
A PDVSA spokesmen, who asked not to be named citing company policy, declined to comment. Demiri didn’t respond to a phone call and email message seeking comment.
PDVSA’s primary sources of financing through prepayment deals have dried up after the Trump administration added sanctions that prohibit the purchase in U.S. markets of new securities issued by Maduro’s government and also ban business dealings with El Aissami, PDVSA Chief Financial Officer Simon Zerpa and other top officials. In search of new financing, the firm recently pursued an oil prepayment deal with Trafigura Group, the Singapore-based trading house. The proposed deal didn’t happen.
Switzerland is home to many of the world’s top commodity trading houses including Glencore Plc, in Baar, a 20-minute train journey from Zurich. Gunvor Group Ltd., Mercuria Energy Group Ltd., Vitol Group and Trafigura all have major trading operations in Geneva. Traders have traditionally located in Switzerland due to its central geography, strong corporate privacy laws, low corporate taxes and light regulatory touch.
--With assistance from Fabiola Zerpa
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