ETF Securities Research Blog

Oil needs more than a Venezuelan default

Judging by CDS spreads, the market fears Venezuela is approaching default (at a 25% recovery, the market is pricing in a 98% probability of default!).
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Source: Bloomberg, ETF Securities

Surprisingly, despite the fact that Venezuela has not let the IMF in to the country to perform its annual assessment (Article IV consultation) since 2004, the Venezuelan government has managed to access the bond markets, with approximately US$100bn of debts outstanding. Worryingly, about a fifth of the government debt (US$21bn) is due within the next three years.

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Source: Bloomberg, ETF Securities

Venezuela controls the largest proved reserves of oil in the world (around 18%), and produces around 3% of global supplies (similar scale to Mexico). Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the state oil company is fully controlled by the government. They have a symbiotic relationship: the government relies on PDVSA for more than half of formal budget revenues and PDVSA is reliant on the government for access to the oil reserves and its relationships with creditor countries such as China. PDVSA has also issued bonds of its own, with total outstanding debts of US$50bn adding to the contingent obligations of the government.

Even though PDVSA and the government are two separate issuers and so PDVSA’s assets cannot be considered collateral by sovereign bondholders, PDVSA will likely face funding difficulties. Any attempt by the government to access more of the PDVSA’s revenues, will leave less resources for PDVSA’s bondholders and market access is likely to close very quickly.

A disruption to Venezuelan supply could tighten global oil markets. However, current global oversupply is around 2.3 million barrels per day according to International Energy Agency data. It is unlikely that all 2.6 million barrels per day of Venezuelan supply will be wiped out overnight. When Mexico defaulted in 1982, its oil production fell by only 8% and that took four years. In the initial phases of a default the Venezuelan government would likely want to work its oil assets even harder to finance itself. Therefore, we believe that to bring the global oil market into balance broader production cuts will be required by both OPEC and non-OPEC members.