US court clears Altana Fund to take part in auction of shares in Citgo parent

By Marianna Parraga and Gary McWilliams

(Reuters) -A U.S. court on Wednesday ruled that a holder of Venezuelan bonds, Altana Credit Opportunities Fund, could seek proceeds from an auction of shares in Citgo Petroleum’s parent, whose first bidding round closed this week, to pay the country’s creditors.

A court officer appointed for the Delaware case, first brought by miner Crystallex in 2017, this month released a list of 17 creditors cleared to obtain proceeds from the sale of shares in PDV Holding, whose only asset is Citgo.

The ruling paves the way for Altana to cash in its roughly $530 million claim, and increases the total allowed by the court to some $21.3 billion from 18 creditors.

The auction, which is expected to trigger an ownership change for Houston-based Citgo, is expected to conclude this year after a second bidding round, U.S. Judge Leonard Stark has said.

Stark separately denied a writ of attachment to Florida resident and creditor Ricardo Devengoechea, but will allow him additional time to further argue why his $17 million claim should be attached to the case.

The judge said he would slightly modify the auction procedure, but based on advice from court officer Robert Pincus, he is trying to “draw a line” on allowing other creditors to join the case. Pincus has said that including others could further complicate the roughly seven-year-old case and extend delays for a final sale to compensate creditors.

Stark also said Caracas-based state oil company PDVSA remains the alter ego of Venezuela, the core argument that has allowed Crystallex and more than a dozen additional creditors including oil producer ConocoPhillips, glass maker O-I Group and miners Rusoro and Gold Reserve to pursue PDVSA’s foreign assets in U.S. courts.

(Reporting by Marianna Parraga; editing by Gary McWilliams and Richard Chang)