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Oil majors and stock investors are looking at May 1st nervously, since the Venezuelan government has set this date as the deadline for major oil companies to renegotiate contracts in the Orinoco basin. In early February, the Venezuelan legislature gave President Hugo Chávez long-expected special powers to rule by decree over the next year-and-a-half. This will enable Chávez to pass decrees on key sectors, such as banking, defense, energy, insurance, media and telecommunications.
In the oil sector, Petróleos de Venezuela, PdVSA, would like to increase its stake to 60% in the four major Orinoco projects from its current holdings of 30-49.9%. If BP, Chevron, ConocoPhilips, ExxonMobil or Statoil refuse to renegotiate, or if their terms are unacceptable to the Venezuelan government, these companies fear that their stakes might be nationalized outright. Their fears are not unfounded . . .
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