(Adds ICSID, details of case)
By Alexandra Ulmer
CARACAS, March 9 A World Bank tribunal's order
for Venezuela to pay $1.4 billion in damages to Exxon Mobil Corp
over nationalizations has been annulled, a lawyer for
the Venezuelan government said on Thursday.
The case at the World Bank's International Centre for
Settlement of Investment Disputes is one of many arising from
nationalizations during late President Hugo Chavez's 1999-2013
rule of the South American OPEC member country.
"We were confident all along that our position was correct
and are very pleased that the annulment committee agreed,"
Venezuela's lawyer George Kahale said.
A reduction to the overall $1.6 billion award would be
welcome news to President Nicolas Maduro's cash-strapped
government as it faces heavy foreign debt repayments amid a deep
economic recession that has led to widespread shortages.
The ICSID ruling, dated Thursday, said "portions of the
award" were annulled but did not give a breakdown of figures.
A spokesman for the U.S.-based oil company, Todd Spitler,
did not confirm financial details, but said: "Exxon Mobil will
continue to evaluate its legal rights and determine next steps."
Venezuela had challenged the 2014 award with various
arguments, including that a previous decision from Paris-based
International Chamber of Commerce to award Exxon $908 million
should be deducted from the ICSID award.
Chavez, the firebrand socialist leader whose rule was cut
short by death from cancer, nationalized a range of oil
ventures, including the Cerro Negro heavy crude project and a
smaller project called La Ceiba, both operated by Exxon.
Despite its appeal of the World Bank court's initial ruling
in the Exxon case, Venezuela's government had hailed that as a
success because the company had been seeking compensation of up
to $10 billion.
Chavez led a wave of takeovers that also encompassed the
electricity, telecoms, metal and agricultural sectors. Many
companies deemed the takeovers unlawful, and Venezuela faces
more than 20 international arbitration cases.
Supporters of Chavez's nationalizations say he was right to
take back control of Venezuela's commodities riches to channel
the profits into social programs at home rather than profits for
(Additional reporting by Ernest Scheyder in Houston, writing by
Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by G Crosse and Lisa Shumaker)