Venezuelan Daily Brief

Published in association with The DVA Group and The Selinger Group, the Venezuelan Daily Brief provides bi-weekly summaries of key news items affecting bulk commodities and the general business environment in Venezuela.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May 16th, 2011

Economics & Finance

Venezuelan bond markets raise concerns
Investment experts note that the drop in oil prices and the dollar's recovery in the international market set to "Venezuelan bonds on the verge of suffering a major technical correction." BANCTRUST analysts, indicated in a report that "there are technical reasons to think the Venezuelan bonds may experience a correction close to 7%," so they recommend buying protection. It suggests that a financial instrument (Credit Default Swap, CDS) that qualifies as an insurance contract that pays an investor to the risk of default on a loan. The firm notes that there are problems with Venezuelan risk. More information in Spanish. (El Mundo, 05-16-2011;

Chavez threatens taking over food distribution chains
President Hugo Chávez Frías has charged that those major food distribution private channels who speculate and hoard and should be operated with the participation of workers and community councils. "And possibly seized. It would increase the social networks of food distribution to ensure good quality and fair prices," he said Sunday. He referred particularly to the Central Madeirense supermarket chain, which was closed due to internal problems with its workers. More information in Spanish. (AVN, 05-16-2011;

Bilateral trade with Colombia plunges as Venezuelan gas imports increase by 428%
Trade relations with Colombia have not been completely reactivated, and despite agreements reached by the presidents of both countries, trade still shows a negative trend. According to Colombia's National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE), Colombian exports to Venezuela decreased by 8.6% in March. Sales of vehicles and auto parts, particularly "wheels and wheels parts" tumbled 70.9%. "On the contrary, exports of fuel, oil and products increased by 298.1%, from U$D 6.6 million to U$D 26.4 million. This was due to higher sales of natural gas (428.5%)," DANE added. (El Universal, 05-16-2011;

Food prices rise to the sky
According to major domestic pollsters, the issue of food prices is among the biggest challenges faced by Venezuelans, yet Finance Minister Jorge Giordani is optimistic that the 1.4% inflation rate recorded last April is going downhill. He says this, in addition to recent wage increase, is one of the most important achievements for the working class. He expects that the inflation top will remain around 25% in 2011. Nonetheless, what is viewed as an accomplishment in Venezuela looks outrageous elsewhere. (El Universal, 05-13-2011;

Venezuela BANDAGRO bond case draws U.S. Supreme Court inquiry
The U.S. Supreme Court sought the Obama administration’s views on an Ohio investor group’s effort to sue Venezuela over potentially $900 million in bank notes that the South American country says are forgeries. The justices asked acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal for his advice on whether the high court should hear the case. A lower court barred Venezuela from invoking a U.S. law that immunizes foreign sovereigns from some lawsuits in American courts. In seeking Supreme Court review, Hugo Chavez’s Venezuelan government told the justices that the suit by DRFP LLC, which does business under the name Skye Ventures, may be the first of several claims over the disputed bearer bonds. (Bloomberg, 05-16-2011;

US SEC charges Highview Point Partners in Venezuela's PDVSA Ponzi scam
The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Highview Point Partners, LLC, a Connecticut-based investment adviser, with engaging in a multi-year Ponzi scheme involving hundreds of millions of dollars. Highview was added as a defendant to a case the SEC previously filed in January 2011, and three hedge funds managed by Highview were named as relief defendants because, according to the SEC’s charges, they are in possession of funds tainted by the Ponzi scheme. After a hearing, the U.S. District Judge for the District of Connecticut, entered a consented-to order temporarily freezing the assets of Highview and the three hedge funds it advises. A hearing on the SEC’s motion for a preliminary injunction is set for May 23, 2011. (Latin American Herald Tribune, 05-16-2011;

FITCH Ratings has affirmed Venezuela-based Banco Provincial's ratings as follows: Long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDR) at 'B+'; Short-term foreign and local currency ratings at 'B'; Individual at 'D'; Support at 5. The Rating Outlooks for the long-term IDRs are Stable. Additional government intervention resulting in pressures on Provincial's financial performance could negatively affect its ratings. (Veneconomy, 05-16-2011;

Expert dismisses official claims of wasted electricity in Venezuela
According to José Aguilar, an international consultant on electricity grids, the maximum energy demand this year has been lower than the system peak reported in 2009 and 2010. (El Universal, 05-16-2011;


Venezuelan exports dropped U$D 8.01 to close at U$D100/bbl. this week, according to data from the Ministry of Oil and Energy. It stated the drop is due to concerns over oil demand in industrialized countries. The average for May is $104.01/bbl. and the year-to-date average is U$D96.01/bbl. (Veneconomy, 05-16-2011;

Chalmette refinery files unit malfunction
Exxon Mobil Corp's joint-venture 192,500 barrel per day (bpd) Chalmette, Louisiana, refinery reported a unit malfunction late on Friday, according a notice filed with the U.S. National Response Center. The filing did not identify the unit, but said hydrogen sulfide, compressed flammable gas and nitrogen dioxide were released in the malfunction. The Chalmette refinery is a joint-venture between Exxon and Venezuela's national oil company PDVSA. (Reuters, 05-15-2011;

Sale of assets
M&P plans to sell its Venezuelan assets, including a 26.35% stake in the LAGOPETROl JV, to Integra (Argentina). The Lagopetrol JV is held by CVP 69%, Hocol (M&P) 26.35%, Ehcopek 3.10% and Cartera de Inversiones Petroleras II 1.55%, and operates the 41.91-sq km B2X-70/80 field area in Zulia. (M&P in Venezuela, 05-13-2011)

ALBA Petroleo in El Salvador ready to start operations
The Board of Directors of ALBA Petróleo in El Salvador says all is set to start operations in that company’s fuel storage plant. Luz Estrella Rodriguez, vice-president of the society, says that the large-scale project, built jointly with Venezuela, will be inaugurated next Thursday 19. This modern facility required an investment of U$D 120 million, it has the capacity to storage 350,000 barrels of diverse kind of fuel, diesel and liquefied gas (5,000 barrels). (AVN, 05-13-2011;

Venezuelan government will maintain terms of the PETROCARIBE agreement even if oil prices rally, according to Energy and Oil Minister Rafael Ramírez. He added eight joint ventures have been created with the governments of the member countries. (Veneconomy, 05-13-2011;

Latin American and the Caribbean Energy Ministers’ Regional Summit opened in Caracas with only four ministers in attendance (Cuba, Bolivia, Dominican Republic and Venezuela). They will draft a joint document on energy potential for the region and on common strategies to follow as the presidential summit approaches next July. (Veneconomy, 05-16-2011;


Venezuela will add fingerprint verification for voting by 2012
Venezuela’s electoral board approved a device for fingerprint verification to be added to computerized voting machines in time for regional and presidential elections to be held in 2012.  The move aims to confirm voter identity and limit fraud, according to a statement dated May 12 and posted on the electoral board’s website. Venezuela’s opposition has accused President Hugo Chavez of manipulating the country’s electronic voting machines even as international groups have endorsed election results. (Bloomberg, 05-14-2011;

Peru and Venezuela to negotiate trade agreement
Peru and Venezuela will open negotiations on May 18 on a Complementation Agreement on Production and Trade, according to the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism (MINCETUR). According to official reports, the first round of talks will be held in Caracas from Wednesday, May 18 to Friday 20 with the goal of opening a six-month negotiation process on general coordination, preferential tariff treatment, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical standards, among others. (El Universal, 05-16-2011;

The following brief is a synthesis of the news as reported by a variety of media sources. As such, the views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Duarte Vivas & Asociados and The Selinger Group.

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