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Shell Says Criticism Of Venezuela Was ‘Misunderstanding’

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

By Dan Molinski Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES MARCH 18, 2010, 9:28 A.M. ET

CARACAS (Dow Jones)–Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB) moved Thursday to clear up what it calls a “misunderstanding” regarding sharply critical remarks of Venezuela reportedly made by one of the oil company’s top officials.

Shell on Tuesday said international oil majors have mostly lost interest in investing in Venezuela, according to Reuters news agency, following leftist President Hugo Chavez’s nationalization of assets in recent years.

“They are desperately inviting people back in, but no one’s going there,” Shell Chief Financial Officer Simon Henry told reporters on the sidelines of a press conference in London, Reuters said.

But in a statement sent Thursday from Shell’s offices in Caracas, the company said that what the company meant to explain was the challenges for international oil companies with regards to access to global markets, and how decisions are made based on several factors.

Among those factors, it said, “is the availability of capital for mega projects.”

The statement didn’t deny the official made the comments that were reported.

“Shell maintains its confidence in Venezuela, its people, its natural resources,” the statement went on to say, adding that it has been in the South American nation for 98 years.

Venezuela last month awarded two promising oil blocks in the petroleum-rich Orinoco region to consortiums that include U.S.-based Chevron (CVX) and Spain’s Repsol YPF (REP). A third block up for bidding went unassigned, and analysts called the auction a moderate success for Venezuela.

-By Dan Molinski, Dow Jones Newswires; 58-414-120-5738; [email protected]

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