RPT-UPDATE 2-US court may put off hearing on Citgo bids to September

Reuters · 07/01 10:00
RPT-UPDATE 2-US court may put off hearing on Citgo bids to September

Repeats with change to headline or text story that ran on Friday

Auction manager seeks more time to review, bids

Motion does say how many or amount of bids received

Court auction aims to satisfy $21 billion in claims

By Marianna Parraga

- A U.S. court has been asked to postpone to Sept. 19 a hearing to present the winning bid in an auction of shares in the parent of Venezuela-owned refiner Citgo Petroleum, according to a motion filed with the court on Friday.

The Delaware court officer evaluating bids in a historic auction of shares in a parent of the seventh largest U.S. oil refiner requested the two-month delay to complete his evaluation and finish with bidders, the motion said. The motion has to be accepted by the judge to go into effect.

The case has broken legal ground in enforcement of international arbitration awards and on cracking sovereign and corporate immunity. The auction is expected to lead to an ownership change of Venezuela's foreign crown jewel to satisfy $21.3 billion in claims against the South American country.

The court had planned to finish the sale process, which has included two bidding rounds, on July 15, days before Venezuela's presidential election on July 28, which Washington sees as a possible exit to the South American country's long-standing political crisis.


COMPETITIVE BIDS

Among the several competitive offers, "multiple bids were actionable," Robert Pincus, the court officer overseeing the auction, wrote in the motion. Additional time is required to clarify the terms of some bids and a definitive sale agreement, he added.

Pincus also asked the court for permission to consider unsolicited bids if he deems one "higher or better" than those received by the court's June 11 submission deadline.

None of the bids submitted this month met the total claims filed with the court, two people close to the matter told Reuters this week, predicting the delay. The motion requesting the delay did disclose the of bids in the second round or their amounts.

Citgo is the seventh largest U.S. oil refiner with storage terminals, pipeline participations and three refineries that can process up to 807,000 barrels per day of crude oil into fuels. In 2019, it severed ties with its ultimate parent, Caracas-headquartered state oil company PDVSA.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's administration and his political opposition have been requesting the U.S. government to delay or halt the auction, so that its results do alter the election outcome.

In a first bidding round in January, offers submitted by investors reached $7.3 billion, compared with a market valuation of between $11 billion and $13 billion for the Houston-based refiner.

Lawyers representing Venezuela called them "disappointing" and recently have pressed the court to organize a third round if offers in the second round that finished this month do approach a fair value for the company.

At least five groups of investors submitted binding bids in the second round, and three secured financing commitments from banks and advisors including JPMorgan JPM.N, Morgan Stanley MS.N and Rothschild & Co PIEJF.PK, people close to the matter told Reuters this month.

A hearing scheduled for July 2 is expected to update the court on the progress of his evaluation. The judge could act on the request at that time.



(Reporting by Marianna Parraga; editing by Gary McWilliams, Richard Chang and Diane Craft)

((Gary.McWilliams@thomsonreuters.com; +1 469-691-7668;))