(Adds details on payment, context on PDVSA)
CARACAS, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Investors have begun receiving payment on Venezuelan state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela SA’s 2020 bond, two bondholders said on Tuesday, even though the company remains in default on most of its outstanding debt during a hyperinflationary economic crisis.
The government of President Nicolas Maduro has halted payment on nearly all of Venezuela and the company’s $60 billion in outstanding debt, but has stayed current on the 2020 issue that is backed by shares in U.S. refining subsidiary Citgo.
Investors had broadly expected PDVSA, as the company is known, to make the $950 million interest and principal payment to avoid losing control of Citgo, which is already the target of a dispute by other creditors seeking to collect from the OPEC nation.
PDVSA did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Two bondholders contacted by Reuters said they had seen the funds in their accounts.
Three others said they had not yet received the funds, but had received word that clearing agents, financial institutions that intermediate bond payments, had gotten the money.
“Yes they are paying, but at PDVSA speed,” said one investor, in reference to the company’s tendency to settle bills well after their due date.
The investors requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
Two PDVSA sources said the company had sent the payment, which had been approved by management two weeks ago, and attributed the delays to compliance procedures by international banks.
Venezuelan and PDVSA are behind on bond payments by some $8 billion. The government of President Nicolas Maduro blames the problem on U.S. financial sanctions imposed last year.
Critics say selective payment of certain bonds illustrates that the government can pay when it has an incentive to do so but uses sanctions as an excuse when it does not.
Failing to pay the 2020 bond would allow bondholders to seize half the shares of Citgo Petroleum Corp.
Canadian miner Crystallex has already won approval from a U.S. judge to auction shares of a PDVSA holding company that indirectly controls Citgo, in order to collect $1.4 billion in compensation for the nationalization of its assets a decade ago. (Reporting by Corina Pons, additional reporting by Deisy Buitrago; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Richard Chang)
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