No fewer than 60 oil service companies in Venezuela – including Williams, Wood Group and Boots & Coots – were in for a nasty shock when President Hugo Chavez began to expropriate their equipment and installations on Lake Maracaibo, the nation’s oil heartland, last Friday. Venezuela’s socialist leader indicated that takeovers will continue this week in the east of the country. Although larger companies like Schlumberger and Halliburton have so far not been affected, with the government leaving rigs alone, they are keeping their heads down.

What kind of signals will all this send to the 19 oil companies – both oil majors and foreign state corporations – currently preparing bids for what is touted as the biggest oil auction on earth? Read more