* PDVSA faces hefty debt payments amid oil slump
* Venezuela pushes OPEC action, hopes for meeting (Adds details on China loan, context)
By Alexandra Ulmer
CARACAS, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Venezuela’s PDVSA is still mulling a potential bond refinancing, its president said on Tuesday, referring to a proposal floated by the state oil company to seek an extension on payments for bonds maturing this year and next.
“We’re evaluating it,” PDVSA president and Oil Minister Eulogio del Pino told Reuters as he and other executives carried a huge Venezuelan flag during an oil workers march in downtown Caracas.
“We’re evaluating a whole series of economic measures that the president will announce soon,” he added, without giving details.
Del Pino told local media in November that PDVSA was mulling a proposal to extend the payment for bonds that mature in 2016 and 2017 to 2018 and 2019, when the company has a lighter payment load. He said this would give better value for investors too because it would help PDVSA’s growth and performance.
PDVSA faces around $5.2 billion in debt payments this year as the country, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries OPEC), is buffeted by low oil prices and a severe recession.
Silence about basic economic indicators, which the central bank has not released in a year, is a major concern for investors scrutinizing Venezuela’s ability to pay debt.
Government officials dismiss market default speculation as a right-wing smear campaign, and President Nicolas Maduro stresses the country last year covered roughly $10.5 billion debt payments, even reducing imports in the scarcity-hit country.
But the slump in oil prices, which on Tuesday briefly fell below $30 a barrel, has some in the market nervous.
Venezuela has for months urged a meeting between OPEC and non-OPEC countries to stem the oil price slide, but OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia has kept production high to defend global market share rather than cut output to support prices.
The United Arab Emirates moved to quash talk of a potential emergency OPEC meeting after Nigeria’s oil minister said on Tuesday a “couple” of members had requested a gathering.
Del Pino said they were still pushing for an OPEC meeting.
“We’re waiting,” del Pino said, adding that Saudi Arabia’s strategy of favoring volumes over prices was “incorrect.”
“We’re reaching a point where this meeting is inevitable,” he said.
Oil prices have energy companies across the world reeling.
In neighboring Brazil, Petroleo Brasileiro SA, the state-controlled oil producer, on Tuesday slashed its investment plan for the third time in just over six months as it tries to preserve cash to pay its debt.
Del Pino said the music-filled march in Venezuela, which included a blow-up figure of late leftist leader Hugo Chavez, showcased that PDVSA, unlike other companies, would not be slashing jobs but would instead seek “creative” solutions amid a cash crunch.
So far roughly $2 billion of a $5 billion Chinese loan negotiated with PDVSA has been allocated to oil projects including in the heavy crude Orinoco belt and to reactivate the over 1,000 inactive wells in the western Maracaibo Lake, del Pino added.
“The loan is disbursed as the project advances. It’s not a deposit,” del Pino stressed, before walking on to Miraflores presidential palace with hundreds of PDVSA workers who are set to receive a salary increase amid raging inflation. (Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Tom Brown)