ConocoPhillips May Have Tough Time Collecting $2B From Venezuela
Oil prices in focus.

Independent oil producer ConocoPhillips (COP) said Monday, Aug. 20, it has settled with the Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela SA to recover $2 billion over the next five years.

But ConocoPhillips investors shouldn't celebrate just yet. 

Petróleos de Venezuela will pay $500 million in the next 90 days, then pay the remaining $1.5 billion over 4.5 years, according to ConocoPhillips' Monday statement. ConocoPhillips did not define the precise quarterly terms of the agreements, but Venezuela could be obligated to pay $83.33 million per quarter for 18 quarters following the initial payment, based on TheStreet's calculations. 

To be sure, $83 million in itself is a hefty price to pay for a country where some of the population is starving.

About 64% of Venezuelans report having lost an average of 24 pounds in 2017. The food packages the Venezuelan government sells at regulated prices only reach about a third of the country's 32 million citizens.

And Venezuela's oil production, which was down 13%, or 300,000 barrels per day, to 2.07 million barrels per day in 2017 from the previous year, is expected to drop further through the end of 2018, meaning extra funds from the state-run oil company will become even harder to come by. 

Investment bank Barclays predicted earlier this year Venezuela's oil production would average 1.43 million barrels per day in 2018, about 700,000 barrels per day below the 2017 average, which represented a 28-year annual low. 

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ConocoPhillips said Monday it was awarded the $2 billion settlement by a tribunal constituted under the rules of the International Chamber of Commerce, and it will be entitled to interest through the payment period. 

The U.S. oil company said the award arises from Petróleos de Venezuela's failure to uphold its contractual commitments, including the "unlawful expropriation of ConocoPhillips' investments in the Hamaca and Petrozuata heavy crude oil projects in Venezuela in 2007." 

ConocoPhillips said the ICC arbitration award is final and binding, and the company may wind up winning an even greater sum from the struggling Venezuelan government due to other pending legal action. 

In response to a request for comment regarding what the company would do in the event Venezuela did not make its agreed upon payments, a ConocoPhillips spokesman told TheStreet the agreement was developed in full faith and the company believes the terms are reasonable and fully enforceable.

"Should PDVSA default, the company can resume global enforcement actions of the ICC award judgment and enforce the settlement agreement in all jurisdictions," the spokesman said. Conoco shares rose about 1.4% to $70.78 by late afternoon Monday on the New York Stock Exchange.

One option for ConocoPhillips if Venezuela defaults is to resume attachment, or court mandated seizure, on assets Petróleos de Venezuela owns in the Dutch Caribbean and other parts of the world, which it said it would suspend as part of Monday's settlement.

A tribunal under the auspices of the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes has already ruled that Venezuela's expropriation of ConocoPhillips' investments violated international law, the company said Monday, and proceedings are underway to determine the amount of compensation owed to ConocoPhillips.

But for Venezuela, a $2 billion debt to one U.S. company will very likely end up low on the list of priorities. The country entered restricted default on its loans in November when the New York Times reported it owes $120 billion overall including $3 billion to Russia, which could theoretically use military force to seize assets and ensure repayment. 

--This story has been updated to include comment from ConocoPhillips. 

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