The Venezuelan government is readying to hand over control over state oil company PDVSA to Russia’s Rosneft, a local newspaper has reported, citing sources from the industry.
Russian TASS reports, quoting El Nacional, that the radical move is being discussed as a way of erasing Caracas’ debt to Moscow. The debt is sizeable: at the end of June this year, money owed to Rosneft alone stood at $1.1 billion. That’s down from $1.8 billion at end-March.
According to the El Nacional report, Moscow had reacted positively to the suggestion, and several commissions had been set up and sent to Venezuela to evaluate the situation at PDVSA. The first feedback from these commissions was reportedly that the company was too large and it needed serious layoffs to become more competitive.
Competitiveness remains questionable, however. Most of the U.S. sanctions on Venezuela have targeted precisely PDVSA because of its vital role as the country’s—and the Maduro government’s—cash cow. Rosneft is the subject of U.S. sanctions, too.
Caracas reportedly wants to hand control over to Rosneft without having to go through privatization. In any case, a change of ownership over PDVSA would need to be approved by the National Assembly, which is controlled by the opposition.