| CARACAS, Sept 11
CARACAS, Sept 11 Venezuela said on Wednesday
that U.S. oil company ConocoPhillips rejected its
latest offer of compensation for the 2007 nationalization of oil
projects and the South American country now seeks a new hearing
on the matter with the World Bank.
Venezuela was responding to a World Bank arbitration panel,
that last week said the South American country had failed to act
in good faith or properly compensate the U.S. company for three
big oil projects that were expropriated by the socialist
government of the late Hugo Chavez.
Venezuela's lawyers Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP
- in a letter published by Energy Ministry Rafael Ramirez on
Twitter on Wednesday - denied the allegations and asked the
tribunal for a hearing.
"ConocoPhillips was ready to reach a deal for $6.5 billion,"
the letter said. But, Venezuela only offered $2.3 billion, it
Venezuela's lawyers said $2.3 billion was higher than the
estimate of the assets' value which their experts had arrived
at: about $1.8 billion, excluding tax and royalties claims.
"An offer in excess of a professional, good-faith valuation
is by definition a good-faith offer," the letter said.
A ConocoPhillips spokeswoman rejected that interpretation.
"Venezuela never formally offered to pay ConocoPhillips fair
compensation for our expropriated assets. In fact, the
Tribunal's recent decision found that Venezuela failed to
negotiate in good faith," the spokeswoman told Reuters on
Last week's partial ruling by the World Bank's International
Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) did not
determine how much money Venezuela must pay the U.S.-based
company. It also limited the scope of ConocoPhillips' claims by
excluding future tax credits.
The company claimed victory, but experts say a final ruling
on damages in the biggest arbitration case that Venezuela is
facing could take one or two more years.
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 some $2 billion.
In their letter published on Wednesday, Venezuela's lawyers
said ConocoPhillips' original claim had been "absurd."
Several major foreign oil companies, including Chevron Corp
, were able to reach agreements with the Chavez
government and give up majority stakes in projects while hanging
onto minority ones.
ExxonMobil Corp and ConocoPhillips did not reach
accords and eventually took their claims to arbitration.
Venezuela 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.
Lawyers consulted by Reuters said a hearing before ICSID
would unlikely change last week's ruling, but that Venezuela
could ask for an explanation of the decision, and could also
request that it be annulled.
In their letter, Venezuela's lawyers cited classified U.S.
diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks that the lawyers said
proved both sides had engaged in long "good faith" negotiations
before moving to arbitration.