Protests against Goldman Sachs over Venezuela bond deal

NEW YORK, United States – The Venezuelan opposition has taken its protests to the streets of New York, where demonstrations were staged Tuesday outside the premises of investment mega-bankers Goldman Sachs.
 
The financial giant was targeted for its purchase of US$2.8 billion of Venezuelan government bonds, which opponents of President Nicolas Maduro say will give his government a financial lifeline.
 
Protesters carried placards bearing such slogans as “Goldman Sachs supports Maduro’s dictatorship” and “Maduro Dictator is killing our people,” but opposition officials did not mince words when they threatened that a successor government could forgo paying the debt.
 
“It is apparent Goldman Sachs decided to make a quick buck off the suffering of the Venezuelan people,” said Julio Borges, head of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled congress, in a public letter to the New York bank’s chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein.
 
“I also intend to recommend to any future democratic government of Venezuela not to recognize or pay on these bonds.”
 
Goldman Sachs’s asset-management division last week paid about $865 million for $2.8 billion worth of bonds – or 31 cents on the dollar – that were issued by state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela SA in 2014 and mature in 2022, according to people familiar with the transaction.
 
The price represents a 31 percent discount to trading Venezuelan securities that mature the same year and would imply an annual yield of more than 40 percent.
 
Goldman Sachs did not negotiate the transaction with the government, but instead bought the bonds from London-based brokerage Dinosaur Group, according to sources familiar with the sale.
 
Goldman has been steadily increasing its Venezuelan holdings in recent months, betting that a change in government could more than double the value of the debt if the country, which sits atop the world’s largest oil reserves, reforms its economy, sources said.
 
The so-called PdVSA bonds that Goldman picked up last week had until recently been in the possession of Venezuela’s central bank since they were issued in a private placement in late 2014. It is unclear whom Venezuela sold the bonds to or how many investors held them before reaching Goldman.
 
The Central Bank of Venezuela’s international reserves jumped $442 million to $10.8 billion on Thursday, the day the bond deal was completed, according to official figures.
 
Borges said the country’s opposition-controlled National Assembly would launch an investigation into the Goldman transaction.
 
He also warned that any future opposition government “would not forget where Goldman Sachs stood when it had to choose between supporting the Maduro dictatorship and democracy for our country.”

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