Ministry, Total Officials Meet to Resolve JV Dispute

Venezuela's government is seeking an "amicable solution" to a dispute with France's Total (NYSE: TOT) over the company's Jusepin oil field in eastern Venezuela but no agreement has been reached yet, ministry and Total officials in Caracas told BNamericas.

Energy and oil minister Rafael Ramirez and Total officials met for several hours on Friday but no agreement was announced by either party.

Total and Italy's Eni (NYSE: ENI) have declined to enter into joint ventures controlled by state oil firm PDVSA to operate oilfields they have been operating for more than a decade.

Total's Jusepin field was forcibly occupied by PDVSA eastern division workers on April 1 and Total workers were prevented from entering the field.

On April 3, Ramirez himself said Total's refusal to enter into a JV for Jusepin could jeopardize new business ventures for the French company in Venezuela.

However, according to a Total official, the ministry sent a letter proposing a meeting on Friday, which Total officials accepted after extensive consultations with Paris.

"We are optimistic. First [the ministry] sent a letter and today we met, so we are hopeful," said the Total official, who asked not to be identified until both parties announce an arrangement for Jusepin.

Caracas daily El Universal carried a Reuters report from Paris saying the company is not considering filing a suit against PDVSA for now. The Total official in Caracas said some workers have been let back into Jusepin facilities.

The official also pointed to Total's payment of US$57.6mn to Venezuela's Seniat tax authority as a "goodwill gesture" since Seniat's claim for back taxes was based on a unilateral retroactive change in the tax rate for companies operating oil fields for PDVSA from 2001-4.

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