Oil and Gas

Arbitrator reinstates suspension of award to Exxon by Venezuela

CARACAS, Sept 18 (Reuters) - A World Bank arbitration tribunal has reinstated a suspension of an order for Venezuela to pay $1.6 billion to Exxon Mobil Corp in compensation for nationalization of oil facilities, pending a decision on the country’s request to annul the award.

The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) said on its web site that “following several communications from the parties, the ad hoc Committee issues a decision on the stay of enforcement of the award,” without giving further details.

In a statement on Friday announcing the stay of enforcement, the Venezuelan attorney-general’s office added a decision on the annulment request was expected in 2016, and “the republic expects the award to be annulled.”

The suspension measure appears to hand the socialist-ruled OPEC nation a breather on the award. Exxon representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

The suspension had been lifted in June after the tribunal rejected Venezuela’s request to review the order to pay Exxon.

Venezuela argued that a previous decision by the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce should be deducted from the ICSID award.

Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA paid Exxon $200 million in 2012, which “should have ended the dispute in relation to this project, without need for any additional payment by the nation,” the attorney general office’s statement said.

President Nicolas Maduro’s government is facing a raft of big-figure arbitration claims as it grapples with an economic crisis, a tumble in oil prices and substantial debt payments.

Arbitration experts say Venezuela was seeking to delay collection of awards by lodging requests for reviews or annulments. (Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Grant McCool)