UPDATE 1-Conoco to soon argue damages in Venezuela dispute -CEO

Tue May 13, 2014 12:29pm EDT

By Anna Driver

HOUSTON May 13 (Reuters) - ConocoPhillips Chief Executive Ryan Lance on Tuesday said his company and Venezuela are due to argue damages before the World Bank's arbitration panel as their dispute over oil assets in the South American country moves forward.

The arguments are "imminent," Lance told reporters after the company's annual meeting, adding it was uncertain when the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) would issue a final ruling.

Conoco's projects were taken over during the socialist administration of deceased former President Hugo Chavez, who led a wave of nationalizations that included the oil, electricity and steel industries.

In a partial resolution, the arbitration panel in September said Venezuela failed to act in good faith or properly compensate ConocoPhillips for three big oil assets the country expropriated in 2007. The court also limited the scope of the company's claims by excluding future tax credits .

This month the panel also said it rejected Venezuela's request to change the arbitrators reviewing the dispute.

Independent lawyers expect a final ruling, including a compensation amount, in 2014-2015.

ConocoPhillips initially asked Venezuela for $30 billion in compensation for its stakes in the Hamaca and Petrozuata heavy crude upgraders and a separate offshore project called Corocoro, but Venezuela offered no more than $2 billion.

The Andean country has more than 20 arbitration cases pending at ICSID and other courts stemming from Chavez's nationalizations. The country pulled out of the ICSID in 2012, but will still be subject to cases submitted beforehand.

(Written by Anna Driver and Marianna Parraga; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)

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