Venezuela Says Citgo Assets Worth More Than $10 Billion

Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the Latin American nation’s state-owned crude producer, said the U.S. oil refining and marketing assets it’s seeking to sell are worth more than $10 billion.

“Their value is much, much more,” Rafael Ramirez, president of the oil producer known as PDVSA, told reporters yesterday. He said the company is receiving offers for assets of Houston-based Citgo Petroleum Corp., without providing details on the value of the bids.

Citgo owns three refineries capable of handling about 749,000 barrels a day in Louisiana, Texas and Illinois. It also operates the sixth-largest U.S. retail gasoline chain through about 5,900 branded stations, according to the Arlington, Virginia-based National Association of Convenience Stores. Argus Media reported July 24 that the government has received offers in the range of $10 billion to $15 billion for the assets.

“We are not a refining company, we’re an oil-producing company,” Ramirez said at an event marking 100 years of Venezuelan crude production in the western state of Zulia. Citgo said in a July 29 bond prospectus document that its parent company was exploring a sale.

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro is seeking to sell foreign refineries as the nation tries to raise cash, boost oil exports to China and reduce the risk of having assets seized if it loses international lawsuits brought by former oil partners, GlobalSource Partners’ Ruth de Krivoy and Tamara Herrera said in an July 31 e-mailed report to clients.

“Our situation is not like many analysts have said, claiming that we need fiscal revenues,” Ramirez said. “We are doing well with our fiscal revenues from the oil sector.”

Attractive Assets

Citgo had sales of $42.3 billion last year and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $1.8 billion, according to the bond prospectus.

The refining business is very strong, especially in the Midwest, where there is a lot of gasoline consumption, Oil Outlooks and Opinions LLC President Carl Larry said in an interview from Houston. The refining business may be sold separately from the gasoline stations, he said.

The chief executive officers of refining companies PBF Energy Inc. and HollyFrontier Corp. have said in recent days they would look at Citgo’s assets.

‘Big Bite’

Buying the refineries “would be a big bite” for HollyFrontier, CEO Mike Jennings said on a company conference call today. “But we look at all these types of opportunities, particularly those with an inland crude supply tributary.”

PBF’s Thomas O’Malley said Aug. 1 that the assets were “certainly something that we would follow up on.”

The head of Marathon Petroleum Corp. said last week his company was “pretty satisfied with our footprint” and Phillips 66’s CEO said he’s more focused on investing in midstream and chemicals businesses.

Venezuela is Latin America’s biggest oil exporter, shipping 1.8 million barrels a day in 2013, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

Maduro has spent revenue from exports on social programs created by predecessor Hugo Chavez and debt repayments, pushing the country’s public sector deficit to 12.3 percent of gross domestic product last year, according to Barclays Plc.

Contract disputes and expropriations have been filed at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes and the International Chamber of Commerce’s Court of Arbitration by mining and oil companies that operated in the country including Exxon Mobil Corp., Gold Reserve Inc., Phillips 66 and ConocoPhillips.

“With takeovers of Exxon and ConocoPhillips upgraders, these assets could be potentially taken to satisfy an arbitration ruling against them,” Andy Lipow, president of Houston-based energy consultant Lipow Oil Associates LLC, said in a phone interview.

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