Schlumberger CEO says Venezuela debt collections improving

Oil services giant Schlumberger Ltd has improved its ability to collect the money it is owed by Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA and will now be able to recognize all revenue associated with its first-quarter operations in the country, Schlumberger's CEO said on Sunday.

Schlumberger Chief Executive Officer Paul Kibsgaard's announcement, published in a press release, follows a warning from the company in its March 18 quarterly earnings report that Venezuelan customers' rates of payment had dropped sharply.

"After meetings with PDVSA, the collections have improved to the point that we will recognize all revenue associated with our first-quarter operations," Kibsgaard said in the release.

Kibsgaard did not provide any specific information in the statement on how much Schlumberger would collect.

"We further expect to finalize a new payment agreement with PDVSA and we anticipate ramping up activity to meet the current and future needs of PDVSA's development and production plans," he added.

In its March 18 quarterly report, Schlumberger maintained its forecast for double-digit earnings growth in 2013 but said it was partially contingent upon reaching a solution in Venezuela.

PDVSA has faced mounting debts since the 2008 financial crisis. Venezuela's oil minister Rafael Ramirez told reporters on March 22 PDVSA owed a total of $16.5 billion to service providers. Ramirez, who is also PDVSA's president, said the state-owned company was working to set up financing arrangements to help pay off its debts to Schlumberger to keep the oilfield services provider from pulling out of the country.

(Reporting By Emily Flitter; Editing by Chris Reese)