By: Reuters – A U.S. judge on Monday signaled he was prepared to go ahead with selling Venezuela-owned oil refiner Citgo Petroleum’s assets to satisfy creditor claims while pushing back against one of Venezuela’s key objections.
U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Stark also will not seek permission to launch the auction without having shares of Citgo parent PDV Holding in the hands of the court, he said after a hearing on the auction. Stark plans to start regular meetings in July with the court officer who established the auction process, he said.
His decision on whether to approve the auction calendar and address objections to the sales process also would come by late July, he said. Venezuela had objected to holding the auction without having the shares in court possession.
Citgo declined to comment on the court proceedings.
Stark has laid out an auction to sell shares in a Citgo parent whose only asset is the oil company to repay billions of dollars in claims against Venezuela. A proposed schedule aims to kick off marketing in September and wrap up any sales by mid-2024.
Citgo and parents PDV Holding and Citgo Holding split from Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA in 2019 under an order by Venezuela’s National Assembly after the U.S. imposed sanctions intended to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Stark has recognized claims from miner Crystallex International, oil firm ConocoPhillips (COP.N), Siemens Energy (ENR1n.DE), and Red Tree Investments that could receive auction proceeds. Several other companies with billions of dollars in claims have sought to piggyback on the judgments.
The U.S. Treasury has said the auction could go ahead, but participants would have to obtain a license to take possession of assets.
Russian oil firm Rosneft (ROSN.MM) last week turned over its 49.9% stake in another parent of Citgo, Venezuela’s attorneys told the court. However, the Citgo Holding shares have no bearing on the proposed auction.
Rosneft did not immediately reply to a request for comment.