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Angola to open loan talks with IMF as oil price bites

Comments (0) Africa, Latest Updates from Reuters, Politics

LUANDA (Reuters) – Angola will begin loan negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) this month as lower oil prices hammer the finances of Africa’s second-largest crude exporter, the Finance Ministry said on Wednesday.

Angola’s economy has grown rapidly since a 27-year civil war ended in 2002, peaking at 12 percent three years ago, but a sharp drop in oil prices has sapped dollar inflows, dented the kwanza and prompted heavy government borrowing.

Oil output represents 40 percent of gross domestic product and more than 95 percent of foreign exchange revenue. Brent crude traded below $39 a barrel on Wednesday, down more than 30 percent compared with a year ago. [O/R]

“The government of Angola is aware that the high dependence of the oil sector represents vulnerability for the public finances and the economy in an extensive way,” the Finance Ministry said in a statement.

“The government requested the support of the IMF for a supplementary programme … taking account of the decline in the price of petroleum.”

Finance Minister Armando Manuel told Reuters in March that Angola had no plans to approach the IMF for loans.

Angola will work with the IMF to design reforms aimed at improving fiscal discipline, simplifying the tax system and increasing transparency in public finances and the banking sector, as part of loan talks, the ministry statement said.

It added that the focus of its economic diversification efforts will be growing the agriculture, fisheries and mining sectors.

The ministry said the government was also implementing an ambitious programme of fuel subsidy reforms to shore up the country’s finances.


(Reporting by Herculano Coroado; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Alison Williams)


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Saudi Arabia to sign $21.5 bin energy, development deals with Egypt

Comments (0) Business, Latest Updates from Reuters, Middle East

CAIRO (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia is expected to sign a $20 billion deal to finance Egypt’s petroleum needs for the next five years and a $1.5 billion deal to develop its Sinai region, two Egyptian government sources told Reuters on Tuesday.

The agreements are tabled to be signed on Thursday during a visit to Cairo by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, a rare foreign trip.

Saudi Arabia, along with other Gulf oil producers, has pumped billions of dollars into Egypt’s flagging economy since the army toppled President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.

The Gulf Arab countries see the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat. Egypt is struggling to revive an economy which unravelled following an uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The development deal for Sinai comes at a time when Cairo is fighting an Islamist militant insurgency there and discontent and poverty among the population there is rife, residents say.

The petroleum financing will have an interest rate of 2 percent and a grace period of at least three years, the sources said.

Separately, the deputy head of the Saudi-Egyptian Business Council said on Tuesday that Saudi businessmen will invest a total of $4 billion in projects including the Suez Canal, energy and agriculture, and had already deposited 10 percent of that sum in Egyptian banks.


(Writing by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Michael Georgy and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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Nigeria talks to Chevron, Total and ENI to revamp refineries

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria is in talks with oil majors Chevron, France’s Total and Italy’s ENI to get help revamping the ailing refineries in Africa’s top crude producer, its oil minister said on Tuesday.

The West African nation has been trying to restart its outdated refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna to end its dependency on costly fuel imports. For weeks, motorists across the country have been queuing to get petrol.

Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, who also heads state oil firm NNPC, said OPEC member Nigeria wanted to privatize the refineries within 12 months following repairs.

“We have gotten commitments from some of the majors. (ENI’s) Agip has indicated interest to work with us on Port Harcourt, Chevron on Warri,” he told the Senate or upper house. “We are talking to Total on Kaduna.”

Kachikwu has previously said NNPC was looking at partnerships or takeovers.

“We are advertising just in case there are better terms out there,” he said, adding that NNPC was also seeking partners to run pipelines and fuel depots as joint ventures.

NNPC had managed to repair the pipelines feeding the Port Harcourt and Warri refineries, he said. Kaduna is fed by a pipeline from Warri.

Kachikwu said that from next week on fuel queues would disappear.

He said NNPC had reached deals with oil majors, with which it works in joint ventures, to help make up for a shortage of dollars due to a slump in oil revenues hindering fuel imports.

“The major international upstream oil companies have indicated their willingness to support major oil marketing companies with some of the required foreign exchange,” Kachikwu said.

“As of today, we have been able to work, in collaboration with the majors…with them to see how they can sell us foreign exchange for the naira components they require for their local operations,” he said, without giving details.

In February, Kachikwu told Reuters NNPC was in talks with oil majors and banks to raise capital for new drilling and to repay its debt accumulated from years of mismanagement. The debt had fallen to $3 billion by December, down from $3.5-$4 billion, he said on Tuesday.

President Muhammadu Buhari fired the NNPC board and appointed Kachikwu last year to overhaul the company, whose opaque structures have allowed corruption and oil theft to flourish.


(Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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Algeria’s Sonatrach awards $100 mil pipe deal to foreign firms

Comments (0) Business, Latest Updates from Reuters, Middle East

ALGIERS (Reuters) – Algeria’s state energy firm Sonatrach has awarded a $100 million contract to supply oil and gas drilling tubes to five foreign firms as part of its drive to increase production, a document seen by Reuters on Tuesday showed.

The companies named in the Sonatrach document are Germany’s CCC Machinery, Dutch firm Van Leeuwen, Vallourec Tubes France, Kurvers Piping France, and High Sealed&Coupled from China.

OPEC member Algeria, which has been hurt by a 70 percent fall in oil prices since mid-2014, is campaigning for more foreign investment to increase oil and gas production to sustain exports and meet growing local demand.

But recent bidding rounds have failed to attract much interest from foreign oil producers.

Sonatrach also said on Tuesday it had made a new oil find with Thailand’s PTTEP and China’s CNOOC following successful drilling in the Hassi Bir Rekaiz area in Algeria.

“This represents 20,000 barrels per day,” a Sonatrach source told Reuters.

Sonatrach holds a 51 percent stake in the project, with the other two companies owning 24.5 percent each.

The state energy company is focusing on developing areas around existing fields and hiking production at its mature fields. It will also invest $3.2 billion over four years to increase pipeline capacity as natural gas output rises from new and existing fields.


(By Lamine Chikhi. Editing by Patrick Markey and Susan Thomas)

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Libya joins Iran in snubbing oil freeze

Comments (0) Business, Latest Updates from Reuters, Middle East

LONDON (Reuters) – Libya does not plan to attend an April 17 meeting of oil producers about freezing supply to support prices, a Libyan OPEC delegate said on Tuesday, joining fellow OPEC member Iran in snubbing the initiative.

The absence of the two OPEC members would limit the impact of any freeze by producers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries along with Russia, even though Libya’s output has been curtailed for many months by unrest and the chance of it increasing production swiftly is low.

“We are not going,” the Libyan delegate said, referring to the meeting in Doha next month. “Clearly, they have to allow us to go back to our production when the security situation in the country improves.”

Libya has made its wish to return to pre-conflict oil production rates clear since four countries reached a preliminary deal on freezing output in February.

Other producers understand this, the delegate said. “They appreciate the situation we are in.”

Qatar, which has been organising the meeting, has invited all 13 OPEC members and major outside producers. The talks are expected to widen February’s initial output freeze deal by Qatar, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, plus non-OPEC Russia.

The initiative has supported a rally in oil prices, which were about $41 a barrel on Tuesday, up from a 12-year low near $27 in January, despite doubts over whether the deal is enough to tackle excess supply in the market.

Iran has yet to say whether it will attend the meeting. But Iranian officials have made clear Tehran will not freeze output as it wants to raise exports following the lifting of Western sanctions in January.

The potential volume Libya and Iran could add to the market is significant. But conflict in Libya has slowed output to around 400,000 barrels per day since 2014, a fraction of the 1.6 million bpd it pumped before the 2011 civil war.

Iran produced about 2.9 million bpd in January and officials are talking about adding a further 500,000 bpd to exports. So far though, Iran has sold only modest volumes to Europe after sanctions were removed.


(By Alex Lawler. Editing by David Clarke)

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Kenya and Uganda presidents to meet oil companies over crude pipeline

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya and Uganda’s presidents and oil company executives will meet on Monday to hold further discussions on a route for a pipeline to transport the two countries’ oil, the Kenyan president’s spokesman said on Sunday.

Resolving the pipeline route is crucial to helping oil companies involved in Uganda and Kenya to make final investment decisions on developing oil fields.

“President Uhuru Kenyatta will host Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni tomorrow … They will discuss the construction of the Uganda-Kenya oil pipeline, a key plank of the Northern Corridor Infrastructure Projects,” Manoah Esipisu said in a statement.

Last wee, Tanzania’s presidency said that Total, which has a stake in Uganda’s crude oil discoveries, had set aside $4 billion to build a pipeline from Ugandan fields to the Tanzanian coast and that Tanzania wants the three-year construction schedule shortened.

The comments raised the stakes in a competition to secure the pipeline with Kenya, which wants Ugandan oil to be exported across its territory and wants the pipeline to link up with Kenyan oil fields.

“Kenya favours the northern route through Lokichar, because as part of the Lamu Port, South Sudan, Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) project, it would transform infrastructure and the way of life of the people in the towns and counties across its path,” Esipisu said.

He added that officials from Tullow Oil, Total and China’s CNOOC had been invited to the meeting.

Total has previously raised security concerns about the Kenyan route. Sections of the Kenyan pipeline could run near Somalia, from where militants have launched attacks on Kenya.

But industry officials have also said that connecting Kenyan fields, which have estimated total recoverable reserves of 600 million barrels, with those in Uganda would make the pipeline project cheaper because costs would be shared.

Both Kenya and Uganda, which the government says has a total 6 billion barrels of crude, have yet to begin commercial production.

Tullow Oil and partner Africa Oil first struck oil in Lokichar in northwest Kenya in 2012.

Africa Oil and Tullow were 50-50 partners in blocks 10 BB and 13T, where the discoveries were made. Africa Oil has since sold a 25 percent stake in those blocks to A.P. Moller-Maersk.


(Reporting by George Obulutsa; Editing by David Goodman)

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Nigeria says producers to meet in Moscow, sees dramatic impact

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

ABUJA (Reuters) – Some members of OPEC plan to meet other oil producers in Russia around March 20 for new talks on an oil output freeze, Nigeria’s petroleum minister said on Thursday, forecasting the meeting would spark a dramatic reaction in crude prices.

Nigeria has been pushing for action by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries because the slump in oil revenue has undercut its public finances and currency, leaving the government struggling to pay civil servants.

“We’re beginning to see the price of crude inch up very slowly,” minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu told a conference in Abuja. “But if the meeting that we’re scheduling, it should happen in Russia, between the OPEC and non-OPEC producers, happens about March 20, we should see some dramatic price movement.”

“Both the Saudis and the Russians, everybody is coming back to the table,” Kachikwu said. “I think we’re very humbled today to accept that if we get to a price of $50, it will be celebrated. That’s a target that we have.”

The Russian Energy Ministry said it was ready for talks but the date and venue had yet to be agreed. “Currently, various options about the venue and date for the meeting, where measures on oil market stabilisation due to be discussed, are being worked out,” it said in a statement.

Benchmark Brent futures were around $37 per barrel by 1554 GMT on Thursday.

OPEC leader Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC Russia, the world’s two largest oil exporters, agreed last month to freeze output at January levels to prop up prices if other nations agreed to join the first global oil pact in 15 years.

Yet the accord has so far failed to have a dramatic impact on crude prices, partly because OPEC’s third-largest producer Iran plans to steeply raise production after the lifting of international sanctions on the Islamic Republic in January.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday stepped up rhetoric on the issue, telling Qatar’s ruler crude prices had fallen to “totally unacceptable” levels.

Kachikwu also said Nigeria was pumping 2.2 million barrels per day, in line with previous comments, of which 46 percent was coming from onshore fields.

He also said Nigeria’s average oil production cost from state firm NNPC and international companies was between $13 and $15 a barrel for onshore fields and $30 a barrel for deep offshore operations.

Oil prices have lost two thirds of their value since mid 2014 due to a glut of supplies caused by booming output from the United States and OPEC. In January they fell below $30 per barrel, their lowest in more than a decade.


(By Camillus Eboh. Writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Susan Fenton and Susan Thomas)

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Gulf Economies Can Survive Plummeting Oil Prices, says IMF

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The IMF is confident that GCC economies can survive continued low oil prices by reducing state spending and increasing government revenues.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is confident that GCC economies can make the adjustments needed to cope with continuing low oil prices, but only by reducing state spending and increasing government revenues, said IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde last week.

Speaking to a conference of Arab economic officials, Lagarde, recently given a new five-year term as IMF chief, said: “Oil prices have fallen by two-thirds from their most recent peak but supply and demand-side factors suggest they are likely to stay low for an extended period. The size and likely persistence of this external shock means that all oil exporters will have to adjust by reducing spending and increasing revenue.” However, she was cautiously optimistic, arguing that most of the GCC countries have the scope to pace their adjustment over several years and limit the impact on growth.

Oil prices have plummeted from their summer 2014 highs of $115 a barrel to the low $30s. Lagarde argues that the oil-reliant Gulf States’ ability to survive the drop will rely on greater taxation and fiscal reforms. She called for the introduction of value-added tax, “ideally a harmonized regional VAT”, commenting that “even at a low single-digit rate, such a tax could raise up to 2% of GDP”. She also called for a greater weight on corporate and personal income and property and excise taxes to increase revenues, as well as bringing energy subsidies to an end. She also called for the diversification of the economy away from oil, for example by adding incentives for entrepreneurship and boosting private sector employment.

IMF cuts economic growth forecasts

Lagarde’s comments follow the IMF’s Regional Economic Outlook report of the MENA economies, which was a brutal assessment of the slowing growth and effect of low oil prices on the region. The IMF has also cut economic growth forecasts for the oil-exporting Gulf States to 3.4% this year, as it reports that last year MENA oil exporters as a whole lost more than $340 billion of revenues (equivalent to 20% of their combined gross domestic product).

While Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have strong enough fiscal buffers to last for twenty years, Oman, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Libya, and Yemen are in a worrying situation, with only five years of fiscal buffers left. Masood Ahmed, the IMF’s regional director, comments: “GCC countries have sizeable buffers — most of them can finance substantial deficits for four to five years. But will they want to use buffers … to continue running large deficits?”

But it is not all bad news. The share of GDP of the non-oil sector is rising, up by 12% to 70% between 2000 and 2013 in the GCC countries as the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Oman all put in place strategies to promote non-oil trade, attract more foreign direct investment, and begin to lift subsidies.

Diversified economy in the UAE



The UAE has one of the most diversified economies in the region. Non-hydrocarbon revenues account for 75% of GDP and 80% of total export revenues. Retail and real estate sectors are showing strong growth driven by wealthy ex-pat domestic demand. And tourism, encouraged by the country’s position as a safe haven, is expected to grow further with Dubai Expo 2020.

The food and beverage sector is also looking strong. The UAE has invested $1.4 billion in the food processing industry since 1994, and it continues to expand the halal food segment which is projected to grow to $1.6 trillion by 2018.

Bahrain and Kuwait implement painful reforms under the cover of the IMF

IMF recommendations are also making it easier for some governments to implement painful reforms and cuts which could lower their citizens’ living standards. Bahrain has planned a series of austerity cuts under the cover of IMF recommendations, introducing VAT, cutting spending on social transfers, removing domestic subsidies for meat and cutting them for gasoline, and freezing public-sector wages. The country is also trying to boost revenues from tourism, light manufacturing, and services industries.

Finance Minister Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Khalifa said: “Bahrain’s Government Action Plan, currently underway, includes wide-ranging measures that will ensure the sustainability of Bahrain’s financial resources and development, benefiting the entire country”.

The IMF is also playing an increasingly important role in Kuwait, where it has helped the government design a broad-based tax system, and introduce VAT and a business profit tax.

Oman aims to be a logistics hub for the region

Oman is traditionally dependent on oil to fund its national budget, currently accounting for 77%. But in 2015, sales fell 35%. And while Oman’s leaders have been discussing the diversification of the economy since the 1990s, it has always been put off for a later date, and today the country has almost no manufacturing or agricultural production.

However, the country does now have plans to develop manufacturing, transportation, and tourism sectors. And the government is building a huge port at Duqm, on Oman’s central coast, in an attempt to become a logistics hub for the region. This would provide an alternative shipping route for oil exports from Iran or Iraq as well as for manufactured goods. Good plans, but now we need to see some action.

Saudi Arabia searching for diversification

Saudi Arabia is similarly reliant on the oil sector, currently accounting for 85% of its budget revenues. And although finances are buffered by huge reserves of foreign currency, they can only last so long if the government continues to sell them at speed to finance spending and its fight with US oil producers. Benefitting from a surplus of 6.5% of GDP in 2013, by 2014 that figure was a deficit of 2.3%. And the struggle looks set to grow in importance over the coming years as the number of working-age Saudis is predicted to hit 4.5 million by 2030.

As part of its diversification program, the government plans to invest in transport infrastructure, energy, utilities, and housing. The Kingdom’s Unified Investment Plan also seeks to boost investment and further investment in education to improve the Kingdom’s competitiveness. A McKinsey study has also highlighted eight sectors with potential — mining and metals, petrochemicals, manufacturing, retail and wholesale trade, tourism and hospitality, health care, finance, and construction. It believes that investment in these areas will enable Saudi Arabia to double its GDP and create as many as six million new jobs by 2030.

Qatar sees impressive economic expansion

In Qatar, economic diversification of the non-hydrocarbon sector, particularly focused on manufacturing, chemicals, and services, is estimated to have grown 11.3% in 2014. As Lagarde commented last November: “A non-oil GDP growth of more than 10% is impressive.” Qatar has also announced plans to scale up petrochemical production, and private sector credit growth is being driven by growing construction and real estate.

Driven by higher investment spending — $182 billion was earmarked for new project implementation over five years from 2014 — and population growth, the Qatar National Bank expects the country’s economic growth to reach a significant 7.8% in 2016, up from 6.8% in 2015. Non-hydrocarbons contributed 62% of the country’s GDP in 2014. And Qatar’s policy to diversify its oil economy received praise from the IMF, with Lagarde commenting: “as far as Qatar, there have been solid and strong policy measures to diversify the economy.”

Let’s hope that the other GCC countries can successfully emulate Qatar’s economic success.

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Nigeria in talks with oil majors to repay debt, invest in refineries

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria is in talks with oil majors and banks to raise capital for new drilling and to repay up to $4 billion in debt that the state oil firm has accumulated over years of mismanagement, the firm’s head told Reuters.

Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, who is also the minister of state for petroleum, said he wanted to increase output to up to 2.5 million barrels per day by the end of 2016. Currently, the OPEC member pumps 2.3 million bpd.

President Muhammadu Buhari has made reforming the oil sector a priority as a slump in oil prices hammers the economy. The former military ruler has fired the NNPC board and appointed Kachikwu to overhaul a company whose opaque structures have allowed corruption and oil theft to flourish.

Nigeria’s oil and gas output has been relatively stagnant as big offshore projects have been held up by much-delayed government funding and uncertainty over fiscal terms.

Africa’s biggest economy produces oil with foreign and local firms through production-sharing contracts and joint ventures (JVs) but investments have been held up because NNPC has been unable to pay its part: bills have been piling up since 2012.

Kachikwu said debt as of November stood at $3.5-$4 billion, which NNPC wanted to cut through deals such as a $1.2 billion multi-year drilling financing signed with Chevron in September.

“The target is that over 2017, we’ll begin to look at zero,” he said in an interview, referring to debt and the goal of ending the need for JVs to depend on NNPC cash.

NNPC was in talks with oil majors such as Italy’s Eni and oil traders Vitol and Gunvor, seeking partnerships to revamp assets such as refineries after decades of neglect. Cash-strapped for years, it reported a loss of 267.14 billion naira ($1.3 billion) for 2015.

“My ideal would be to bring in third party capital, do a joint investment and management of the refineries and work out a pay-out process over 5 to 6 years basically on lifting of some portion of the finished products,” Kachikwu said.

He added that the government would also advertise concessions for pipelines and depots next month.



NNPC was also looking into revamping joint ventures with local firms to boost productivity but this would depend on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), a project to revamp the sector held up in parliament for years.

Kachikwu said NNPC was in talks with the Senate to speed up the process by splitting the PIB into three parts covering governance, taxation and business items such as oil block licensing.

NNPC would also restructure strategic alliance agreements held by Atlantic Energy to raise funds for oil blocks sold by Royal Dutch Shell.

The controversial deals were signed under the previous oil minister Diezani Alison-Madueke, who was briefly arrested in London last year on suspicion of corruption. [nL5N1223TQ]

Former central bank governor Lamido Sanusi alleged that Atlantic’s deals were one route through which tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues were diverted from state finances.

Kachikwu said NNPC expected to conclude a deal within two months for a new partner to pay up to $1.3 billion to take over the Atlantic agreements. The blocks were originally sold to indigenous oil companies by Shell.

“I’m saying to Atlantic, sorry, you’re out because there’s been a breach,” he said. “Whoever comes in has to give a sign-in fee almost equivalent to what I’ve lost … we’ll have a massive increase in volume out of those fields, we’re going to have 150,000 to 200,000 bpd from the current 40,000 to 50,000 bpd.”


(Reporting by Julia Payne; Editing by Ulf Laessing and Ruth Pitchford)

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Workers at Ivory Coast’s state oil company Petroci extend strike

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Workers at Ivory Coast’s state oil company Petroci have extended a strike for an additional 72 hours as they sought to bring in employees from other companies in the sector to join their protest against layoffs, union officials said on Friday.

Fifty of Petroci’s 600 employees were made redundant last month and another 150 are expected to be dismissed, union leaders have said, in the wake of an audit recommending that the company cut costs and staff amid falling oil prices.

Workers launched a 72-hour strike on Tuesday.

“Next week we will intensify the strike and see if other employees from other companies in the sector join the Petroci employees in this strike,” said Geremie N’Guessan Wondje, secretary general of the SYNTEPCI union.

Petroci offered to pay 10 dismissed managers six months salary while the 40 other laid-off employees were to receive eight months salary. However, a member of the company’s management said the union was demanding 20 months.

“That’s not possible. We don’t have all that money,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

Petroci is a small oil and natural gas producer but it is heavily involved in the downstream sector, controlling 36 percent of domestic gas distribution in French-speaking West Africa’s largest economy as well as about 30 filling stations.

It also partners with companies with production and exploration operations and manages a logistical base that services offshore blocks.

SYNTEPCI represents workers from 16 companies in addition to Petroci that could be called upon to strike out of solidarity.

Those companies include state-owned Societe Ivoirienne de Raffinage (SIR), which operates a refinery with a capacity of 65,000 barrels per day, as well as logistics firms and fuel retailers such as Total.



(Reporting by Ange Aboa; Writing by Joe Bavier, editing by David Evans)

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