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.

Friday, August 29, 2014

August 29, 2014

International Trade

Inbound cargo at Puerto Cabello:
  • 58,000 tons of sugar from Brazil for Central Azucarera Portuguesa, C.A. Azúcar, Central El Palmar
  • Over 34,000 tons of wheat from Terra World Trade y Gavilon Grain for Molinos Carabobo and Pastas Capri.
  • 12,000 tons of rice from Guyana Rice Development Board for Corporación de Abastecimientos y Servicios Agrícolas (CASA)
24 vessels remain at bay awaiting dock assignment. Twelve if them carry food, specifically white and yellow corn, rice, sugar, oil, wheat and soybean meal. More in Spanish: (Notitarde;

Imports dropped 22% during first half of 2014
According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), total imports were US$ 22.1 billion in 2013 and for the same period in 2014 they have dropped to US$ 17.3 billion, a 22% contraction, mostly due to slow FOREX allocation by the government. More in Spanish: (El Universal,

Government has seized 503 tons of food in the border
Táchira Governor former Lieutenant José Vielma Mora reports public security patrols have seized 503 tons of food on the Colombian-Venezuelan border since the start of the joint plan to fight smuggling, two weeks ago. He said that about 25 people, covering their faces attempted on Monday to relaunch "guarimbas" (violent street closures) in Táchira state. (El Universal,

Logistics & Transport

Airlines abandon fliers amid currency dispute
With the cash-strapped government holding back on releasing US$ 3.8 billion in airline-ticket revenue because of strict currency controls, carriers have slashed service to Venezuela by half since January, adding another layer of frustration to daily life here. But despite several months of talks over the money Venezuela owes to airlines, little progress has been made. About two-thirds of the 24 airlines that are affected, including those with the most money tied up in Venezuela, haven't reached a payment agreement with the state, said Jason Sinclair, a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association. And those that have reached deals lack guarantees that the funds will be released, he said. "The country unfortunately is disconnecting from the world economy and runs the risk of deeper isolation," he added. Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department issued an advisory urging Venezuela-bound travelers to take precautions as dwindling flights from the country leave people stranded here. Companies including DELTA, American Airlines and LUFTHANSA have drastically cut passenger capacity and offer only a small fraction of tickets in the local bolívar currency, whose value has plummeted on the black market. The flights that are left are too expensive for many Venezuelans to afford, with economy-class tickets to New York easily topping US$ 3,000, six times the price of a year ago, even when they're bought months in advance. Tickets for short flights to other transit hubs in the region, such as Panama City or Bogotá, are difficult to come by. (The Wall Street Journal,

Oil & Energy

Venezuela may import crude oil for the first time in history. PDVSA may import Algiers’ Saharan Blend to dilute its own extra-heavy crude oils, according to a document from the State oil company Reuters had access to. This would be the first time Venezuela imports crude oil in its history. In recent years, PDVSA has been purchasing more and more refined products such as heavy naphtha to mix with the Orinoco Oil Belt’s extra-heavy crude. (Veneconomy,; El Universal,

Venezuela's faltering oil sector could drag down PETROCARIBE
The decline of the Venezuelan oil sector could have wider effects in Central America and the Caribbean. Venezuela supplies crude oil and refined fuel shipments at reduced cost to 15 countries in the region under the PETROCARIBE pricing mechanism. Some of these countries depend on Venezuelan supplies for most of their energy use. Caracas has so far been able to maintain fuel supplies to these states because their low energy demands do not strain Venezuela's refining capacity. However, as Venezuela's energy sector declines -- and public finances deteriorate -- Venezuela eventually could change its terms for financing such shipments or reduce them altogether. The most immediate impact of a reduction in PETROCARIBE shipments would be energy supplies rapidly becoming more expensive for small states. Because of their extreme dependence on PETROCARIBE for energy, Nicaragua, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Haiti likely would be the most affected by such a measure. PDVSA likely will continue supplying PETROCARIBE energy supplies under the current terms for as long as it can. A reduction in PETROCARIBE shipments probably is not imminent but will become more plausible if the Venezuelan government does not relieve the financial burden on PDVSA. If Venezuela experiences problems in maintaining oil exports under its political agreements, it is likely to reduce supplies to PETROCARIBE members before it chooses to reduce similar shipments to Cuba. (Stratfor,

Financial Times: Is Venezuela finally ready to sell CITGO?
A long-proposed sale of CITGO, the US subsidiary of Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA, is once again making some waves. Rafael Ramírez, the powerful boss of PDVSA who is also oil minister and deputy president for the economy, said this month that a sale could go ahead “as soon as we receive a proposal that serves our interests.” But would Caracas really sell it this time? And would anyone buy it? Russ Dallen of Caracas Capital Markets wrote to clients: "They would like to sell it, but they are trying to talk up their book. It is worth about US$5-7 billion, not the US$10-15 billion they were are trying to assert they have offers. But, they need the money. They have huge dollar shortages at home. They have 2 bonds for US$ 4.5 billion maturing in October to pay off, in addition to high interest, and they are also concerned about the large arbitration judgments that loom in their future." Lazard, an investment bank, has been charged with the daunting task of finding buyers. Francisco Rodríguez, chief Andean economist at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch: "the market is reading it negatively, believing this is the result of a liquidity problem, and fearing that the government, instead of investing the cash from the sale, will either waste or siphon it somewhere in order to keep the status quo for a bit longer." China could be among the prospective buyers. Carmine Rositano, hydrocarbons analyst at GlobalData, a research and consulting firm, said a Chinese company could be “the most likely suitor” for CITGO, and wrote: "Chinese companies, such as SINOPEC and China National Offshore Oil Corporation, have already invested billions of dollars in Canadian oil sands projects and could use their equity production to supply heavy sour crude oil to the CITGO refineries." Freeing up crude that would otherwise be sold to CITGO would enable Venezuela to meet its obligations with China. (Financial Times,

U.S. Congressman urges Obama to block Venezuela's CITGO sale
A U.S. congressman has urged the Obama administration to block the proposed sale by Venezuela's state oil company of its North American refining unit CITGO, saying it would be against "vital national interests". CITGO has three U.S. refineries in Illinois, Louisiana and Texas with combined capacity of some 750,000 barrels per day, and it also has 48 terminals. Flanked by Venezuelan opposition figures, U.S. Representative Joe Garcia said the proposed sale by Venezuela's socialist-led government was "a huge concern." (Reuters,;

Cheap gasoline prices stir debate
When Venezuela recently announced it was consider raising the price of the world’s cheapest gasoline, it didn’t spark a rush to the pumps. Such threats have come and gone in the past and still it’s cheaper to buy a gallon of gas than a bottle of water. Even as fuel subsidies cost the country an estimated $12-$15 billion a year and have spawned powerful smuggling rings, the administration has been reluctant to budge. At the root of the inaction is the political cost for an administration that has seen its approval rates plummet and told its followers that cheap gas is a birthright in a country with the world’s largest oil reserves. There are fears that increasing prices might spark a repeat of the 1989 Caracazo riots, which were brought on, in part, by fuel and transportation hikes. In reality, however, the subsidies are benefiting smugglers and the car-owning middle class even as they deprive the needy of resources. Venezuela’s gasoline prices haven’t budged in 17 years, but rumors about an imminent increase are frequent. The latest round of speculation began early this month when the head of the state-run PDVSA oil company Rafael Ramírez, said the president was considering a “national debate” about raising prices. With National Assembly elections slated for next year and Maduro’s approval rating already in the dumps, some believe the gas hike isn’t imminent. (The Miami Herald,


Chemical industry is now operating at 50% capacity
Juan Pablo Olalquiaga, President of the nation's Chemical and Petrochemical Association (ASOQUIM) reports the industry is operating at 50% capacity. "We have not shut down, but we have shut down production lines and inventories are being rationed to maintain operations. We are operating under survival conditions". Pigment production is operating at 7% capacity, and adhesives are at 22%. More in Spanish: (El Universal,

Food giant Polar to increase production of corn flour by 21%, prices may rise
The CEO of Venezuela's largest private food company Polar, Lorenzo Mendoza, has announced that pre-cooked corn flour production would be increase thanks to the expansion of a plant located in Chivacoa, north central Yaracuy state. "With this expansion, there will be a 21%-increase in the availability of Harina Pan (Polar's corn flour brand) in the market," Mendoza noted. The project's investment amounted to VEB 212 million (US$ 33.65 million), 70 jobs were created, and 41,244 additional tons of corn flour will be produced in that plant. At the same time, President Nicolás Maduro is considering price increases for corn flour; powdered, pasteurized and raw milk; pastas, sunflower and corn oil. He has advanced that “necessary and balanced” adjustments in the country’s economic system are to be implemented  in “the next few days.” (El Universal,; and Veneconomy,

Economy & Finance

FEDECAMARAS says very serious economic crisis will cause GDP to shrink by 4-5%
Jorge Roig, President of Venezuela's main business federation, FEDECÁMARAS, has called upon the government to take steps to meet the current economic crisis. "The government is not taking the decisions called for by the very serious crisis that worsens by the day", he said, adding that the government owes the private sector US$ 9 billion from past import transactions. Roig asked the Central Bank to provide updated economic data which it has been withholding since May. He said "we believe this is an almost irreversible situation and we will probably close the year with a GDP contraction of around 4-5%", and added "we are asking the government to again set up a dialogue" with the private sector. Roig reported that during the past meetings the government agreed to pay up 30% of its debt with the private sector, which it did belatedly, but that the amount is now back up to US$ 9 billion due to delays in allocating FOREX. He also apologized to the public for being forced by authorities to "submit them to a humiliating procedure of being fingerprinted in order to buy food." He said the latest step by the government has been "badly implemented, badly executed and very badly explained". (Infolatam)

IMF to cut Venezuela's 2014 estimated growth rate
Alejandro Werner, IMF Director for the Western Hemisphere says the organization will probably cut 2014 estimated growth rates for countries such as Brazil, Chile, Peru, Argentina and Venezuela. More in Spanish: (El Mundo,; El Universal,

Black market bolívar slides to record low
Venezuela’s bolivar fell to a record low against the U.S. dollar on the black market today as the government tightens currency rationing to pay maturing debt. Two black market traders in Caracas, who asked not to be named because the trading isn’t legal, confirmed the record-low rate. Inflation reached 60.9% in May, the last month for which figures are available, while according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg gross domestic product shrank 2.1% (Bloomberg,

HSBC estimates exchange rates at VEB 15 and VEB 60 by year end
HSBC does not believe the Venezuelan government will unify foreign currency exchange rates and predicts that it will have a dual system before the year is out: One at VEB 15/US$1 through the National Foreign Trade Center (CENCOEX), and the other through SICAD2 at VEB 60/US$1. This would bring a devaluation of 138% through CENCOEX and a 20% devaluation through SICAD2. It believes unsatisfied demand "will continue to be met by the black market". It reports they estimate 2014 inflation at 65%, and prices to rise 76.8% in 2015. Their report adds: "In our scenario this strategy would allow Venezuela to maneuver until 2015 but at a very significant inflationary cost"; and warns "social dynamics can become unpredictable", adding that political reaction "to fast economic decline has been very slow". More in Spanish: (El Nacional;

Auction sales of US dollars via SICAD decline
Official figures reveal that foreign currency provided through auction sales via the Ancillary Foreign Currency Administration System (SICAD), a mechanism where companies can legally buy US dollars at an exchange rate of VEB 11 per USD, hit its lowest level this year in August. (El Universal,


PRIMERO JUSTICIA calls for a legislative elections "sweep" to cut Maduro's term of office
Tomás Guanipa, Secretary General of the PRIMERO JUSTICIA opposition party is calling for a "sweep" in the 2015 legislative elections in order has the National Assembly approve "the constitutional reforms needed to cut down Nicolás Maduro's term of office". More in Spanish: (El Universal,

One European Union observer attends López trial
Katarina Lenoen, Political Counselor at the European Union office in Venezuela has attended the 3rd session of criminal proceedings against Leopoldo López, leader of Voluntad Popular, for the events of 12 February 2014. She talked to López, who told her: "The judge here is not the judge; decisions are taken outside the courts. In my specific case, they are taken in Miraflores Palace because I am a political prisoner of the Maduro regime". More in Spanish:  (El Nacional;

Samper says: "Dialogue in Venezuela is frozen, not broken"
Former Colombian president Ernesto Samper (1994-1998) says dialogue in Venezuela "is frozen, not broken," and called President Nicolás Maduro "is a man of dialogue and peace."  Samper - who is denied a visa by nations involved in curbing drug traffic - was recently named Secretary General of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). He remarked that he had a good rapport with the Venezuelan president and described him as "a bridge of communication with president Chávez when confrontation between Colombia and Venezuela arose some years ago." Samper added he had intervened to try to ease tensions while Maduro was Venezuela's foreign minister. (El Universal,

Foreign Minister to meet with US Charge d'Affaires
Foreign Minister Elías Jaua is scheduled to meet with newly appointed US charge d'affaires Lee McClenny, and will discuss diplomatic and economic relations. More in Spanish: (Ultimas Noticias,

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment