Mexico's Oceanografia preps debt standstill agreement

Mon Feb 24, 2014 6:43pm EST

LONDON, Feb 24 (IFR) - Troubled Mexican offshore oil services company Oceanografia said on Monday it is putting together a draft standstill agreement in a bid to give itself more time to solve its debt problems.

On a brief conference call with investors, the company said it had retained law firm Paul Hastings and international advisory firm Houlihan Lokey.

The company is still waiting on a decision from investors to accept its request for a 60-day extension of a grace period on a missed bond coupon payment, which expired on February 14.

That USD335m bond, maturing in 2015, remains under pressure. It fell to 34.50-39.50 on Monday after languishing around 40.00-45.00 last week, and having printed at 98.814 with an 11.25% coupon in 2008.

"Whether this (standstill agreement) is something that prolongs the 60 days [is not clear], but it is probably some sort of mechanism to prevent creditors from taking disruptive action," said one investor who had been on the call.

Oceanografia's head of investor relations, Jorge Betancourt, said the company will strive to be as transparent as possible and communicate with creditors to the fullest degree while the situation plays out. Another call with investors may take place before the end of the week.

The company was not immediately available for follow-up questions after the call.

Oceanografia is in the midst of a corruption inquiry, and this month was handed a 21-month suspension from new government contracts with state-owned petroleum giant Pemex. Deals with Pemex are said to account for much, if not all, of Oceanografia's revenue.

Without Pemex contracts, Oceanografia would have to enter the public bidding process, which could be challenging. The Mexican government last year pushed through energy reforms that ended Pemex's 75-year monopoly in the sector.

Oceanografia had insisted that it will make the coupon payment - and has pledged to sell assets to do so if needed. It also has the option of making money by leasing its vessels to other companies in the Gulf of Mexico and in other countries, like Peru.

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