UPDATED: What PDVSA bid did Lazard Frères win to sell CITGO?

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    Lazard, an old investment bank from France that operates around the world, has been retained by PDVSA to sell CITGO. Lazard describes itself as "the world's leading independent financial advisory and asset management firm." A document leaked to this website provides the best-to-date insight into Lazard's relation with PDVSA on the specifics of CITGO: 

    ...the retention of Lazard Frères SAS (“Lazard”) to act as investment banker to Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (“PDVSA” or the “Company”) in connection with a possible sale, directly or indirectly, of all or substantially all of the business or assets of its subsidiary CITGO Petroleum Corporation (“CITGO”), to one or more other corporations or business or governmental entities or persons (each, a “Buyer”), in one or more transactions, each of which transaction may take the form, without limitation, of a merger, a sale of assets, equity securities or other interests (each, a “Transaction”).​

    Reuters recently informed that "Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA is working with investment bank Lazard Ltd to sell its North American unit, Citgo Petroleum Corp, according to people familiar with the situation." Adding:

    Representatives for Citgo and Lazard declined to comment. The people asked not to be named because the matter is private.

    Lazard has not refuted Reuters, publicly at least, of its alleged relation with PDVSA, nor about intended purpose of that relation, i.e. to sell CITGO.

    Where Reuters' got it all wrong is in not having questioned its sources on reason given to decline to comment on the issue: the selling of a State-owned asset (CITGO) is not a private matter. Hence the question in the title: what bid organized by PDVSA for the divestment of CITGO did Lazard win?

    Lazard, as countless other local and international businesses favoured by chavismo, did not win any bid. In fact, there was no bid. Its retention to sale CITGO is but another exhibit of rampant corruption of a rogue administration unwilling to comprehend the distinction between State and private assets. How many PDVSA board meetings resulted in proposals to discuss the matter of disposing of CITGO with its shareholders? How many discussions about disposing of CITGO were had in Venezuela's Congress?

    According to the agreement -entered into by Lazard's Matthieu Pigasse, Francois Funck-Brentano and Jesus Luongo on behalf of PDVSA- Lazard is costing the Venezuelan purse $100,000 per month. Should it achieve "consummation of a transaction" for an "aggregate consideration up to US$7 billion" it will get a 0.5% "transaction fee". Should the "aggregate consideration" exceed US$7 billion, Monsieur Pigasse et al will get 0.75%.

    There's little doubt that Lazard is working hard to get its dues. A report from last week puts Lazard at the centre of a "bid in principle" between Hovensa -a Hess / PDVSA jointly owned refinery in the U.S. Virgin Islands- and an undisclosed "U.S.-based startup whose principals have financial and trading backgrounds, the ability to raise capital, and limited experience with refining." The yet-to-be done deal came after Hovensa retained Lazard in late November 2013 to sell the refinery, for which only one party of the 140 contacted by Lazard submitted a bid.

    Lazard's intention with CITGO seems to be dismember it and sell it in parts, as it considers unlikely to find a party willing to buy the entire company. It remains to be seen how selling CITGO's choice businesses will impact PDVSA's marketing prospects in the USA, and as a consequence Venezuela's income.

    Lazard will rely on "PDVSA's sole discretion" should it be required by applicable law to "disclose any of the Confidential Information" related to undertakings to sell CITGO, so PDVSA "may seek a protective order or other appropriate remedy or waive compliance" with agreement terms. In light of the numerous pending lawsuits brought against PDVSA, it remains to be seen how could PDVSA possibly "waive compliance" in matters related to divestment of CITGO when New York is the jurisdiction whose laws are said to govern the agreement.

    No word has been heard from Venezuelan opposition politicos about Lazard's "variety of matters" with PDVSA. 

    Request for comment sent to Lazard's Matthieu Pigasse weren't returned.

    UPDATED 24.09.2014: the BBC reports that Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro denied that Venezuela is planning to sell CITGO, in an event yesterday in New York. President Maduro's statements run counter to all evidence published to date as per Lazard's involvement with divestment of CITGO.

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