People have been saying Venezuela is on the verge of collapse for years, but its been a slow burn.
Now, the nation that economist Steven Hanke has called “the most miserable country in the world” for two years running is really starting to show signs that it is running out of cash.
How do we know? The state oil company PDVSA is getting really slow to pay the oil companies with which it’s doing business. We spotted this telling nugget in a note from HSBC, after analysts met with representatives from companies like Royal Dutch Shell.
Here’s the bit you need to read:
Venezuela running out of cash: Several BP tankers carrying c.2mmbbls are stuck outside Venezuelan crude import terminals unable to discharge, because PDVSA hasn’t paid for the oil. The Venezuelan economy is under intense strain due to the collapse in oil receipts, coupled with chronic power shortages due to a severe drought. Risks to oil production are rising as a result: Schlumberger and Halliburton have both curtailed activity in the country in recent weeks due to lack of payment. European majors involved in Venezuela include ENI and Repsol: both are involved in the Perla gas offshore field, as well as heavy oil production. Both majors have said they expect some payment “delays,” and have outstanding receivables of around USD100m reach.
Record lows in the price of Venezuela’s main export, oil, have made a dire situation even worse. Hanke called Venezuela “miserable” mostly because of its 289% inflation rate that has made it impossible to find everyday goods like toilet paper and food staples like rice and beans. Food riots rock the country almost daily, Reuters reports.
This video of a child demanding food from President Nicolas Maduro has gone viral.
In it she says, “President Maduro, I am tired of this situation. I don’t have water, I don’t have food, I don’t have medicine, and the last thing is I don’t have shampoo.”
Rolling blackouts due to an energy shortage aren’t helping matters, either. They’re just making it easier for criminals in an already violent, desperate country, to operate under the cover of darkness.
And also, tragically, this has also become a public-health disaster.
Part of this is all because the government would rather stay current with outside creditors and avoid the first default in Venezuela’s history, rather than ask creditors and the IMF for help. That help will likely come with conditions.
Now, based on this inability to pay companies associated with the only export keeping its economy afloat, it seems the government is running out of options.
Venezuela has around $9.5 billion in debt payments to make by the end of the year. The latest payment it managed to squeeze out was in February, and when we talked to analysts at that point, they sounded surprised the country could even do that.
“Unless the Chinese pull something out of the bag or PDVSA exercises a voluntary bond swap, it’s happening,” said Brian Dean, a partner at ACG Analytics.
“There’s going to be a default in my view unless there’s some kind of political disruption. … They can sell assets but I don’t know what they have left,” he added.
The next big debt payment is for PDVSA in October. By then, who knows how badly the situation will have deteriorated — default or no default.