ConocoPhillips aims to collect $115 mln Jamaica owes Venezuela, records show

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A worker walks past the Petrozuata Oil Refinery in the Orinoco oil belt in the Venezuelan eastern st..
A worker walks past the Petrozuata Oil Refinery in the Orinoco oil belt in the Venezuelan eastern state of Anzoategui, February 13, 2001.U.S. oil company ConocoPhillips had sought up to $22 billion from PDVSA for the broken contracts and loss of future profits from the Hamaca and Petrozuata oil projects.

KINGSTON, Aug 4 (Reuters) - U.S. oil company ConocoPhillips (COP.N) is aiming to collect some $115 million that Jamaica's government owes Venezuela to partly enforce a $2 billion arbitral award, Jamaican court records show.

The development comes as creditors seeking to collect debts owed by Venezuela or state oil company PDVSA increasingly eye assets held outside of the United States, where the government is protecting from seizure the refiner Citgo Petroleum Corp (PDVSAC.UL) - the crown jewel of Venezuela's overseas assets.

Conoco is seeking to enforce an arbitral award from the International Chamber of Commerce over the South American country's 2007 expropriation of its assets.

It is among several companies aiming to seize Citgo shares, as well as PDVSA funds held in Portugal's Novo Banco. read more

The funds Conoco is targeting in Jamaica are debts that the island nation's government has not yet repaid to OPEC-member Venezuela for loans made under the largely-defunct Petrocaribe program, in which the PDVSA provided oil to Caribbean countries on generous credit terms.

A court on July 15 granted Conoco's request that a receiver be appointed to "collect and take control" of the funds" and distribute them to (Conoco) in satisfaction of the Award." It was not immediately clear when Conoco would receive the funds, which total around $115 million.

Jamaica's government said it is willing to pay Venezuela but has not been able to due to U.S. sanctions on PDVSA, the records show. The Jamaican government has in the meantime set aside the funds in an escrow account.

Conoco did not reply to a request for comment. Neither Jamaica's finance ministry nor its attorney general responded to questions from Reuters.

PDVSA and Venezuela's information ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Shortly after winning the arbitration award in 2018, Conoco began seizing PDVSA products from the Isla refinery in Curacao. The two companies reached a payment agreement in August of that year, and Venezuela paid some of the money in cash and commodities before it defaulted again, according to Conoco.

As of March 31, Conoco had received approximately $754 million of the award and had resumed legal enforcement actions to try to collect the rest, a corporate filing shows.

To be sure, Jamaica's Petrocaribe debt amounts to a small portion of Venezuela's outstanding debt to Conoco.

But Washington is currently shielding Citgo as part of a bid to support the South American country's political opposition, which has controlled the company since 2019, leading to doubts about creditors' ability to attach the company's shares anytime soon.

"Every little bit helps, especially because there's not much going on in the United States," said Russ Dallen, managing partner of boutique investment bank Caracas Capital Markets.

Reporting by Kate Chappell in Kingston and Luc Cohen in New York Writing by Luc Cohen Editing by Marguerita Choy

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Thomson Reuters

Reports on the New York federal courts. Previously worked as a correspondent in Venezuela and Argentina.