* Lukoil set to join other companies leaving Venezuela
* Analysts say political risks in Venezuela are high
* Lukoil CEO says project is not a high priority
By Katya Golubkova
ASTRAKHAN, Russia, Oct 2 Lukoil,
Russia's second-biggest oil producer, wants to sell its stake in
a Russian consortium developing a large oil project in Venezuela
because it is not a high priority, Lukoil's head said on
Venezuela is the world's 11th largest crude exporter but
foreign companies operating there have faced price controls and
currency devaluations along with threats of nationalisation,
forcing several to quit the country.
Lukoil's exit could raise more questions about Venezuela's
ambitious plans to boost stagnant output and the ability of the
government to turn the promise of the Orinoco Belt into reality.
Lukoil is part of the Junin-6 consortium developing heavy
oil in the Orinoco basin. The group is led by Russian state oil
major Rosneft and also includes Gazprom Neft
"We made an offer to the consortium to buy out our stake,"
Vagit Alekperov told reporters. "This is not a project of a high
priority for us."
Surgutneftegas and TNK-BP, which was bought by
Rosneft for $55 billion earlier this year, have also decided to
leave the consortium, citing a need to focus on domestic
The Junin-6 consortium owns a 40 percent stake in the
project, which started production in September 2012, while
Venezuela's state-run PDVSA has 60 percent.
"The consortium is falling apart ... The companies have
understood the political risks and begun to leave the project,
one by one," Alexander Pasechnik, an analyst with the National
Energy Security Fund think-tank in Moscow, said.
Some other companies have also taken flight from the Latin
Last month, Malaysia's Petronas said it was exiting one of
the biggest petroleum projects in the Orinoco Belt, after what
sources close to the venture and within the firm said were
disagreements with Venezuelan authorities and PDVSA.
Ties between Moscow and Caracas flourished under Hugo
Chavez, the socialist leader who died of cancer earlier this
year to be succeeded by Nicolas Maduro, who won the presidential
election in April and was Chavez's chosen successor.