May 9, 2018 / 6:59 PM / 2 months ago

Venezuela's PDVSA sued for $25 million in U.S. over nonpayment: complaint

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Venezuela’s state-run oil firm PDVSA [PDVSA.UL] is being sued for more than $25 million in the United States over nonpayment of notes issued for work performed by Canadian energy contractor SNC-Lavalin, according to a court filing.

FILE PHOTO: A worker walks past a mural with a PDVSA logo at its gas station in Caracas, Venezuela August 29, 2014. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo

The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, is the latest in a series of legal filings seeking to press the cash-strapped oil company and its refining subsidiary for payment, with actions in recent days by U.S. oil producer ConocoPhillips and Canadian mining company Rusoro.

PDVSA’s deteriorating infrastructure and declining oil export revenues have thrown Venezuela into a severe recession. The recent court actions have cut its ability to run oil storage, processing and blending facilities that feed its exports.

The lawsuit was filed by White Beech SNC LLC, identified in the complaint as a Delaware corporation that this month received the PDVSA notes from SNC-Lavalin. White Beech’s attorney was not available for comment.

White Beach SNC is not an affiliate of SNC-Lavalin, said Nicolas Ryan, spokesman for the Canadian engineering and construction company, declining to comment further.

PDVSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company is facing rising pressures from an inability to finance exploration and refining operations, contributing to a lack of spare parts for its oil and gas and refining operations.

The OPEC member country’s crude exports in the first quarter fell 29 percent year-on-year to 1.19 million barrels per day, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Oil service firms, including Schlumberger NV, Baker Hughes, a GE company, and Weatherford International PLC, have reduced operations in the country due to a lack of payments.

“It’s pretty hard getting paid in Venezuela,” Christian Brown, president of SNC-Lavalin’s oil and gas business, said in an interview at a Houston energy conference. “We’ve done no work recently in Venezuela.”

Conoco this month sought to attach PDVSA oil inventories and other assets to collect on a $2 billion arbitration award, crimping the South American company’s oil storage and export operations in the Caribbean. Rusoro also filed in a New York court seeking to attach assets of PDVSA’s Citgo Petroleum as payment for a $1.2 billion arbitration award.

Citgo declined to comment.

The case is White Beech SNC vs Petroleos de Venezuela, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 1:18-cv-4148.

Reporting by Gary McWilliams, additional reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien, Marguerita Choy, Jonathan Oatis and Richard Chang

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