After months of hunting for buyers for Venezuela’s U.S. oil subsidiary, Citgo, Caracas is scrapping plans for the sale. Venezuela’s finance minister confirmed the news to a newspaper this week, saying offers came in far below the asking price of $10 billion.
“The sale of Citgo is discarded, and the president has already affirmed it,” Finance Minister Rodolfo Marco Torres said Sunday, according to local reports. “Venezuela will continue on with Citgo and keep investing in the refineries.”
Venezuela had been sending mixed messages over the Citgo sale since ministers confirmed this summer they were seeking bids for the Houston-based oil refining unit. Reuters reported that U.S. energy companies including Valero Energy Corp., Western Refining Co. and HollyFrontier Corp. had showed interest in the sale. But last month, President Nicolas Maduro asserted that his government would seek to “fortify our investment” in the refinery.
The potential sale of Citgo had been a common refrain under late President Hugo Chávez, who acknowledged that the U.S. subsidiary was a burden on the state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA). But with Venezuela facing mounting external debt and cash flow troubles, the Maduro administration’s plan to sell Citgo seemed a more real possibility.
Venezuela’s government has been moving quickly to assure the public that it has a handle on its economic trajectory as slipping oil prices have propelled fears of a debt default. Caracas recently completed a debt restructuring agreement with China, and has promised to pay off $3 billion worth of PDVSA bonds that mature on Tuesday.