CARACAS Aug 23 Venezuela's central bank said on
Friday it sold $335.5 million in bonds and cash at its latest
auction under its Sicad currency exchange system, which is aimed
at boosting the flow of dollars to the economy.
As usual, the bank did not say at what exchange rate the
dollars were sold. The auction differed from previous ones in
the OPEC nation in that Sicad auctioned debt for the first time,
rather than just cash.
The bank said it auctioned $300 million worth of bonds from
state oil company PDVSA, which mature in 2035 and were issued
last year in a private placement with the central bank. The bank
said on Friday they had a market value of $239.7 million.
Those PDVSA securities were sold to local businesses, mostly
importers of children's toys, which will resell them for dollars
to pay for imports. The toy sector had complained that lack of
access to hard currency meant a risk of shortages in the run-up
Previous Sicad auctions have targeted other local
businesses, ranging from automakers to the health sector. The
remaining $35.5 million from the latest auction was sold to
individuals, mostly those seeking to make purchases abroad.
Sicad, which operates in parallel with a decade-long
currency control mechanism, provides dollars at a weaker rate
than the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars.
The government says it is helping overcome foreign exchange
bottlenecks, which private economists describe as one of the
reasons for a sharp growth slowdown during the first quarter.
Business leaders complain of unclear criteria for
determining winners. They say Sicad does not ensure a consistent
supply of currency because companies do not know in advance if
their industry will be able to participate.