One week ago, we and many others wondered, if the time has finally come for Venezuela, which was facing a “no grace period” $842 million principal payment for bonds issued by state-run energy company PDVSA, to default on its billions of unrepayable obligations. As we reported then, the liquidity crisis for Venezuela was especially acute because even if it did make the first PDVSA payment, it was facing a second, even larger one today, when PDVSA had to make another $1.121BN payment.
Well, despite a several day transfer delay, Venezuela did make the first payment, however it was not clear if Caracas would also make today’s payment, although as Reuters reported earlier, “markets remained optimistic that President Nicolas Maduro’s government will make the payment, though investors expect delays. PDVSA last week struggled for days to deliver funds for a separate bond payment amid confusion over which banks were charged with transferring the money.”
PDVSA bonds were down slightly in early trading on Thursday, while Venezuelan bonds were mixed, according to Thomson Reuters data.
However, as we previewed again last week, and as Reuters confirmed today, “most economists say a default is increasingly likely in the medium term as Venezuela’s collapsing socialist economic model has left the once-prosperous population destitute and led to deterioration of the OPEC nation’s vital oil industry.”
It now appears that that is indeed the case, and the long overdue Venezuela default, which has been speculated ever since 2014, is finally nigh, because during a nationwide TV address, Venezuela’s socialist president Nicolas Maduro said the country will seek to restructure its global debt after the state-owned oil company makes the PDVSA payment due at midnight. Maduro blamed a financial blockade that is preventing the nation from rolling over its debt, according to Bloomberg.
“I decree a refinancing and restructuring of all foreign debt and all Venezuelan payments,” Maduro said. “We’re going to a complete reformatting. To find an equilibrium, and to cover the necessities of the country, the investments of the country.”
“We have had to face a real global financial persecution,” Maduro said, adding that OPEC member Venezuela had paid $71.7 billion in debt since he came to power in 2013, despite losing $100 billion in revenues to falling oil income. Too bad he didn’t blame the “speculators” for the collapse of his socialist paradise.
“If Venezuela wants to refinance one of its bonds, it is prohibited by the global financial dictatorship,” Maduro added according to Reuters, warning that “they will never suffocate us. We will never surrender to the U.S. empire,” he added, also criticizing Colombia for allegedly blocking a shipment of medicines under U.S. pressure.
The good news is that bondholders of the PDVSA bonds maturing Thursday will get paid in full: according to Maduro, the government will make the last $1.1 billion PDVSA principal payment due overnight. The bad news, is that everyone else is about to get a big, juicy haircut, or as Bloomberg reports, “from there on out, the nation will renegotiate its debt with banks and investors, he said in a national address.”
Of course, since there is no such thing as a “unilateral restructuring” in the world of debt, and since the country has effectively previewed it will be haircutting its creditors few if any of whom will agree to Maduro’s terms, another way of putting what Maduro just said is that Venezuela is – finally – about to default.
Now this is a problem for Venezuela’s creditors because, well, they are owed a lot of money. In total, Venezuela has $143 billion in foreign debt owed by the government and state entities, with about $52 billion in bonds, according to Torino Capital, even as Venezuela’s international reserves – including the nation’s gold – have sunk to just $10 billion, a 15 year low. The table below shows only the upcoming coupon and maturity payments:
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