Once the Venezuelan press began writing about the intention of Chavez’ Government to place shares of part of PDVSA in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange via the sale of stakes in joint ventures to China’s Citic, as reported here and in Setty’s blog and Caracas Chronicles, the Government went into denial mode, having been caught rojo-rojito-handed with the fingers in the privatization till.
First, there was a curious Bloomberg story, in which a company official anonymously confirmed the story, but denied that this was strictly a privatization, “as shares will be offered in a holding company created to manage PDVSA’s stakes in the joint ventures and not in the state oil company itself”.
Jeez, these people really must think we are stupid,as the share of a company that just manages PDVSA’s stakes, can’t be worth as much as the stakes themselves. But, Mr. anonymous, pardon me, selling any company owned by PDVSA is a privatization, no matter how much you like or dislike euphemisms.
But that explanation was not noted much by the local press, so that none other than the President of PDVSA and Minister of Energy and Oil Rafael Ramirez, declared not once, but twice, that PDVSA was not planning to sell shares of any part of the company, because PDVSA has “never done much in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and the idea is to negotiate, via Citic, any sort of transaction, but mainly bonds”
And you have to wonder, whether this statement reveals the absolute ignorance of the Minister or just another incredible attempt to lie and deceive about the true plans of PDVSA with its Citic sale.You see, if you take Minister Ramirez words at face value, PDVSA has never had anything to do with any Stock Exchange in the world, as far as I know, except the Caracas Stock Exchange. This is the only exchange where its bonds have ever traded.
The reason is simple: Bonds rarely trade in exchanges, they are usually traded by professionals “over the counter” and PDVSA’s bonds are no exception, so the explanation is extremely suspect. The reasons for this are many, you can read most of them here, but basically, bond issues are small, many bonds are fairly illiquid, they are affected by slow moving news like changes in credit quality and interest rates, so they move slower than stocks. But in the end, brokers have no vested interest in making their markets more transparent. It is a good business.
And the Honk Kong Stock Exchange is no exception, while some bonds are issued and registered in it, they trade rarely. For example, you can see here , that of the bonds registered in that exchange only, one, uno, traded in all of January 2012 , a Government of Hong Kong bond maturing in 2014 . And December 2011 was not much better. So, Mr. Ramirez, there is no true opportunity in doing what you said. You hear!
The question then boils down to whether this was simple ignorance or just another attempt to hide the true intentions of PDVSA and the Chavez Government to do whatever they want or feel with our country and its resources.
Once again, the idea of selling these pieces of the joint ventures is not a bad one, PDVSA needs money, but somehow it would seem as if Venezuelans should have a priority, no? Imagine, for example, getting US$ dividends on your Petropiar shares under the current exchange controls.
That’s how you distribute wealth…away from the Government.
But clearly, this plan to sell Petropiar shares was never meant to be made public. Only the revolution was privy to it.
What else is new?