ETF Securities Research Blog

PDVSA’s selective default risks further oil outages

Petróleos de Venezuela’s (PDVSA’s) debt swap earlier this week provides Venezuela’s state oil company temporary relief from upcoming debt payments, but this act of “selective default” is unlikely to significantly alleviate the financial concerns for the company nor the government. Risk of oil production outage from Venezuela as a result of a potentially disruptive full blown default would drive the global oil market closer to balance and push oil prices higher.

As we highlighted in February, the finances of the PDVSA and the Venezuelan government were precarious, with CDS spreads indicating that both are close to default. Since then, the economy has plunged further into economic chaos as electricity shortages (blamed on a lack of rain to power hydroelectricity) and hyperinflation running over 1000% have roiled the oil dependent country. That has been paired with political chaos. The opposition government is currently trying to call for a referendum to oust President Maduro (and they claim their efforts are being thwarted by the government’s “ongoing coup d’etat”).

Beyond weak oil prices, oil production in Venezuela has been continuously falling, severely crimping PDVSA’s revenues. This week PDVSA managed to swap US$2.8bn of debt maturing in 2017 for US$3.4bn maturing in 2020. However, that only represents under 40% of the US$7.1bn maturing in April and November 2017, far short of the 50% target PDVSA had set. S&P Ratings have labelled the event a “selective default”. The short-term relief of pushing maturity out, comes with the cost of higher payments later. The strategy is clearly reliant on oil prices and production volume increasing.


While Venezuela is likely to be exempt from cutting production as part of the OPEC quota target that was recently announced, we believe that the country will struggle to raise production. Foreign oil service providers will continue to pare back on their operations in the country in this chaotic and uncertain environment.

When we first wrote about Venezuela’s financial woes in February, global oversupply of crude was assumed to be around 2.3 million barrels per day. At the time, we judged it unlikely that most of Venezuela’s 2.4 million barrels per day of production would be wiped out over-night. However, today the global over-supply is only around 0.3 million barrels. Venezuelan production has fallen 0.2 million barrels since the beginning of the year, highlighting much production can unravel in times of chaos. Therefore, we now believe that a serious production outage from Venezuela could push the global oil market toward balance and increase price.

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