Venezuela Claims Another Victim

Back in January, we noted that Venezuelan state oil company PdVSA had racked up nearly $8 billion in unpaid invoices, and was stiffing contractors like Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB  ) and Halliburton (NYSE: HAL  ) left and right. The firm even engaged in some wretched rig wrangling, taking control of an Ensco (NYSE: ESV  ) jackup when the driller refused to keep working without payment.

Venezuela's oil minister hasn't been particularly conciliatory, saying that if contractors halted work, "We're going to take over those rigs like we already did with Ensco." PdVSA has been talking about placing some debt later this spring, but considering where its existing paper is trading, this capital raise would likely come on very punitive terms.

Helmerich & Payne (NYSE: HP  ) is another driller to feel the pain, reporting in March that it had only seen PdVSA settle 1% of its debts. The firm has been laying down rigs as soon as they come off contract.

That brings us to today, where it's Williams' (NYSE: WMB  ) turn to feel the Venezuelan burn. The firm -- both a pipeline operator and one of the largest natural gas producers in the U.S. -- has some operations in both Argentina and Venezuela. The latter presence, dating back to 1997, now requires a $241 million writedown.

Williams considers PdVSA to be in default, and it has no expectations of collecting. That's a change from the firm's 10-K filing, in which it still held out hope for getting paid eventually.

While our Motley Fool CAPS community is very bullish on Venezuela-connected Harvest Natural Resources (NYSE: HNR  ) , it's not hard to see why the stock continues to languish, given the continuing craziness in this corner of the world.

Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. Check out his CAPS profile or follow his articles using Twitter or RSS. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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