Chavez Cancer Won’t Hinder Harvest Deal Approval: CEO

Harvest Natural Resources Inc. said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s battle with cancer won’t hurt its chances of getting approval to sell a stake in a joint venture to Indonesia’s PT Pertamina.

“I don’t think it will have an impact,” James Edmiston, chief executive officer of Houston-based Harvest, said by telephone today. “Venezuela has been in the oil and gas business for over 100 years and they know what they are doing.”

Harvest agreed in June to sell its 32 percent stake in the Petrodelta joint venture to Indonesia’s state-owned oil company for $725 million by Jan. 31. That deadline can be pushed back, Edmiston said. Chavez, who in his 14 years in power has closely controlled Venezuelan oil policy, is battling a respiratory infection following a fourth surgery. New elections may be called if he fails to start a new term on Jan. 10.

“No decision can be made without Chavez in Venezuela,” said Russell Dallen, who heads brokerage Caracas Capital Markets. “I’m not optimistic on the deadline, as all officials are focused on who will be leading the country,” he said in a phone interview from Miami today.

The Pertamina deal will probably happen in the second or third quarter of the year, Zachary Prensky, analyst with Little Bear Investment LLC, said in a phone interview from New York.

Petrodelta produces 39,000 barrels a day in the Orinoco heavy oil belt. Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the state-owned producer known as PDVSA, owns 60 percent of the venture and Vinccler CA is the other owner.

Pertamina is still seeking Indonesian approval for the purchase, Ali Mundakir, a spokesman in Jakarta, said by phone today. Alfredo Carquez, a spokesman for Caracas-based PDVSA, and a Venezuelan Oil Ministry spokeswoman didn’t return calls or e-mails seeking comment.

Harvest soared a record 87 percent on June 23 when the deal was announced. The shares rose 11 percent to $10.25 at the close in New York today after the company announced another oil discovery in Gabon.

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