May 25, 2020 [Reuters] – Swedish oil refiner Nynas AB said on Tuesday it was no longer subject to U.S. sanctions and that Venezuela’s state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela [PDVSA.UL] had sold its majority stake in the company.
The company, part-owned by Finland’s Neste Oil, last year entered a court-administered process to reorganize its business, trying to disentangle itself from sanctions on PDVSA that are part of Washington’s efforts to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
In October, the U.S. Treasury Department effectively banned Nynas from importing Venezuelan oil, throwing the company – which employs about 1,000 people in Sweden, Germany and Britain – into a crisis. It said it could not extend loans with banks, leaving it unable to pay its debts.
“As Nynas now is out of sanctions, financing is available to secure necessary crude oil purchases going forward,” the company said.
A Nynas spokesman told Reuters the company had no plans to resume imports of Venezuelan oil.
Nynas said PDVSA had sold 35% of its shares to an independent Swedish foundation, Nynässtiftelsen, and now owned just 15% of all Nynas shares issued.
No change has been made to Neste’s 49.99% stake, a Nynas spokesman said, without elaborating on how PDVSA was compensated for the sale of its stake. He declined to provide details on the composition of the foundation, but said it was independent of both PDVSA and Nynas.
The U.S. Treasury Department, which enforces sanctions, said on Tuesday Nynas was no longer blocked under the sanctions.
“This corporate restructuring, among other things, severs control by blocked persons and reduces the interest of blocked persons below 50 percent,” the Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said in a statement on its website.
Neither PDVSA nor Venezuela’s oil ministry immediately responded to requests for comment.
Juan Guaido, leader of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly and recognized by dozens of nations as the country’s rightful leader, is seeking to protect PDVSA assets abroad from seizure by creditors or sale by the cash-strapped Maduro government.
OFAC had rejected an earlier Nynas proposal in which PDVSA and Neste would have slightly reduced their holdings to avoid either party having a majority, and given a smaller stake to a third party, according to a source close to an ad-hoc PDVSA board of directors made up of Guaido’s representatives.
That board controls some PDVSA subsidiaries, especially U.S.-based refiner Citgo Petroleum. Its efforts to control Nynas have been unsuccessful.
“The ad-hoc board of PDVSA was not able to appoint directors to PDV Europa,” said Jose Ignacio Hernandez, Guaido’s chief overseas legal representative, referring to the Netherlands-registered PDVSA subsidiary through which the company holds its stake in Nynas.
Hernandez’s office later issued a statement saying the restructuring was “conducted along with authorities designated by the Nicolas Maduro regime,” and called on the National Assembly to investigate the deal.
The U.S. Treasury Department and Nynas declined to comment about the earlier proposal.
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