Well, it is early in the year, but Bloomberg last night reported that the International Chamber of Commerce awarded ExxonMobil “only” US$ 750 million in its arbitration case against PDVSA over the nationalization of its assets in February 2007. This ruling is very favorable for Venezuela, as essentially seems to recognize only book value for the expropriated properties. Exxon had been seeking compensation not only for the expropriated property, but also for the loss in cash flow from the operation of the project. ExxonMobil owned 41% of Cerro Negro, which produced on average some 95,000 barrels of heavy crude per day. The multinational company confirmed the news according to the Wall Street Journal.
ExxonMobil had been asking for US$ 7 billion of which about US$ 747 million were tangible assets. According to Bloomberg the award was for US$ 907.6 million, which was reduced to US$ 750 after a counter claim by PDVSA. But in the end the number looks exactly like book value.
ExxonMobil had also been seeking compensation at the World Bank’s ICSID Court, I am not clear how the two overlap or what judgement in one implies for the other.
If arbitration in the oil projects determines that there will be compensation only for the assets of the projects expropriated, then the total liability to ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips should be of the order of US$ 3.5 billion, rather than the more than US$ 20 billion being sought by the two companies. Estimates put the loss of cash flow from operations around US$ 9 billion, so that a decision including book value and cash flow would have been expected to be (rough numbers) US$ 12.5 billion.
But if the World Bank’s ICISD decides in a similar manner, the Venezuelan Government would have scored a very important victory in its arbitration fights, which would impact the nineteen arbitration cases at the ICISD against Venezuela.
This should be positive for Venezuelan bonds early in 2012