Royal Dutch Shell Plc is negotiating the sale of its stake in a Venezuelan oil joint venture to Paris-based Maurel & Prom , three sources said this week, a move to scale down its crude business in the ailing OPEC-member country to focus on gas. The Anglo-Dutch company is seeking to sell its 40 percent stake in Petroregional del Lago, a joint venture with Venezuela's state-run oil company PDVSA in the western state of Zulia near Colombia.
The area has been plagued by frequent theft of equipment and near-daily power cuts as Venezuela remains mired in deep recession, hyperinflation and chronic shortages of food and medicine. Foreign companies also have complained in private that joint ventures with PDVSA are stymied by convoluted bureaucracy, dodgy contracts, and lack of resources, according to dozens of sources in the industry.
At Petroregional, Shell has grown frustrated by delays in receiving dividends from PDVSA and a ban on minority partners independently exporting production, one of the sources said. That has deprived Petroregional, which in 2016 produced about 33,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude, of much-needed income and dented profitability, the source added. In the last few weeks a disagreement with Venezuela has emerged over a fee called an entrance bonus that Maurel & Prom would have to pay to the government, as required by Venezuelan law, to gain access to the field's reserves, two of the sources said. Negotiations are currently on hold, they added.