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Citigroup to sell Venezuelan gold in setback to President Maduro: sources

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By Mayela Armas and Corina Pons

CARACAS (Reuters) – Citigroup Inc plans to promote a number of tons of gold positioned as collateral by Venezuela’s central financial institution on a $1.6 billion mortgage after the deadline for repurchasing them expired this month, sources stated, a setback for President Nicolas Maduro’s efforts to carry onto the nation’s fast-shrinking reserves.

Maduro’s authorities has since 2014 used monetary operations often called gold swaps to make use of its worldwide reserves to realize entry to money after a stoop in oil revenues left it struggling to acquire onerous foreign money.

Up to now two years, nevertheless, it has struggled to get well its collateral.

Underneath the phrases of the 2015 cope with Citigroup’s Citibank, Venezuela was because of repay $1.1 billion of the mortgage on March 11, in accordance with 4 sources acquainted with the state of affairs. The rest of the mortgage comes due subsequent 12 months.

Citibank plans to promote the gold held as a assure – which has a market worth of roughly $1.358 billion – to get well the primary tranche of the mortgage and can deposit the surplus of roughly $258 million in a checking account in New York, two of the sources stated.

The flexibility of Maduro’s authorities to repay the loans have been sophisticated by the South American nation’s dire financial state of affairs in addition to monetary sanctions imposed by the US and a few European nations.

Most Western nations say that Maduro’s re-election to a six-year time period final 12 months was marred by fraud and have acknowledged opposition chief Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s professional president.

Guaido invoked Venezuela’s structure to announce an interim presidency in January. Nevertheless, Maduro retains management over state establishments in Venezuela and has the assist of the highly effective army. He has branded Guaido a U.S. puppet.

With Washington’s assist, Guaido’s crew has taken management of state oil firm PDVSA’s U.S. refining subsidiary however its try to barter a 120-day extension of the repurchase deadline for the collateral was unsuccessful, the sources stated.

“Citibank was instructed that there was a power majeure occasion in Venezuela, so the grace interval was essential, however they didn’t grant it,” stated one of many sources, who belongs to Guaido’s crew.

A Venezuelan authorities supply acquainted with the matter confirmed that the nation’s Central Financial institution didn’t switch the cash to Citibank this month.

Citigroup declined to remark. The Venezuelan Central Financial institution didn’t instantly reply to a request for info.

In a report offered to the U.S. securities regulator in February, Citibank stated Venezuela’s Central Financial institution had agreed 4 years in the past to purchase again in March 2019 a “important quantity of gold” as a part of a contract signed to acquire some $1.6 billion. Citibank stated that, following the transaction, it owned the gold.

Guaido is trying to freeze financial institution accounts and gold owned by Venezuela overseas, a lot of which stays within the Financial institution of England. On the finish of 2018, the Central Financial institution paid funding financial institution Deutsche Financial institution AG about $700 million to get well possession of a portion of gold used as collateral for a mortgage.

Nevertheless, the bullion remained within the custody of the Financial institution of England, regardless of the Central Financial institution’s request to repatriate it. In mild of that transaction, the sources stated there was no incentive for the Central Financial institution to repay Citibank. RENEGOTIATE DEBT

Guaido’s crew additionally started making ready this month for a potential debt restructuring in a bid to ease funds and cease any hostile motion by collectors, stated two sources who took half within the dialogue.

In conferences between members of Guaido’s crew with authorized advisors in the US, there have been discussions of beginning renegotiations quickly not solely with Venezuelan bondholders, but additionally with the Chinese language and Russian governments and corporations affected by a wave of nationalizations, stated the sources.

“We need to handle the debt in a complete manner. We calculate that it totals $200 billion,” stated one of many sources.

The Citgo refinery unit, Venezuela’s foremost asset overseas, is beneath scrutiny as a result of it serves as a assure for the issuance of a PDVSA bond and a mortgage from Russian oil firm Rosneft.

Guaido’s advisers are additionally evaluating the cost within the coming weeks of round $72 million in curiosity coming due on PDVSA’s 2020 bonds to keep away from any motion by collectors in opposition to Citgo.

(Reporting by Corina Pons and Mayela Armas; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Modifying by Lisa Shumaker)

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