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Angola’s Sonangol halts all asset sale talks

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

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – New Sonangol chief executive Isabel dos Santos has suspended all talks relating to the sale of assets belonging to the Angolan state oil firm and stripped its internal legal department of most of its powers, a statement said.

Dos Santos, the billionaire daughter of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, was appointed to the Sonangol helm last month with orders to improve the efficiency of the sprawling 40-year-old firm, the central pillar of Angola’s economy.

The statement posted on Sonangol’s website after a board meeting at the end of last month said “all processes of evaluation, negotiation and sale of any assets” had been suspended with immediate effect.

It gave no further details.

Separately, it said the board had removed the legal department’s mandate to handle anything other than disciplinary matters. Again, the statement provided no more clarity.

Isabel dos Santos told Reuters last month she planned to hive off Sonangol’s non-core assets, such as its banking, real estate and airline interests, into separate holding companies to bring the company’s focus back exclusively to oil.

Boston Consulting Group and PriceWaterhouseCoopers have been hired as external advisers to the shake-up, which has won approval from the foreign oil firms operating in Africa’s top crude producer.

Isabel dos Santos also said she intended to improve transparency at Sonangol, long been regarded as one of the most opaque institutions in Africa.

In 2011, Sonangol was accused of misplacing $32 billion in oil revenues owed to the government.

The International Monetary Fund later said it had managed to track down the missing cash, attributing the accounting discrepancy to “quasi-fiscal operations” conducted on behalf of the government.


(Reporting by Ed Cropley and Herculano Coroado; Editing by James Macharia)

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Nigeria signs $80 bln of oil, gas infrastructure deals with China

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

LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigeria has signed oil and gas infrastructure agreements worth $80 billion with Chinese companies, the West African country’s state oil company said on Thursday.

Nigeria, an OPEC member which was until recently Africa’s biggest oil producer, relies on crude sales for around 70 percent of national income, but its oil and gas infrastructure is in need of updating.

The country’s four refineries have never reached full production because of poor maintenance, causing it to rely on expensive imported fuel for 80 percent of energy needs.

These problems have been exacerbated by a series of attacks on oil and gas facilities by militants in the southern Niger Delta energy hub which pushed production down to 30-year lows in the last few weeks.

Oil minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, who also heads the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), has been in China since Sunday for a roadshow aimed at raising investment.

“Memorandum of understandings (MoUs) worth over $80 billion to be spent on investments in oil and gas infrastructure, pipelines, refineries, power, facility refurbishments and upstream have been signed with Chinese companies,” said NNPC in a statement.

NNPC added the China roadshow was “the first of many investor roadshows intended for the raising of funds” to support the country’s oil and gas infrastructure development plans.

Earlier this week, NNPC said oil production had in the last few days risen by around 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.9 million bpd, due to repairs and no attacks having been carried out since June 16.

Goldman Sachs, in a report published on Wednesday, said a “normalization” in Nigerian oil production would put pressure on global oil prices and may mean prices will average less than $50 a barrel during the second half of 2016.


(Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Mark Potter)

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The end of OPEC?

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

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OPEC’s refusal to impose production limits and an evolving global marketplace signal diminished clout for the oil cartel.

When OPEC ministers once again failed to agree on production limits to bolster oil prices in early June, it was yet another signal that the days of the oil cartel’s dominance in the global marketplace are over.

Members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries may continue to be important players in world oil markets, but “the cartel has lost its privileged ability to control global oil prices,” according to Global Risk Insights, which assesses political and business risk around the world.

OPEC nations, led by Saudi Arabia, traditionally have been the world’s swing oil producers, with enough reserves and daily production to control the price of oil. But that has changed in recent years as the United States, Russia and other smaller non-OPEC countries increased production.

Non-OPEC production rises

Total OPEC production is nearly 37 million barrels a day compared to non-OPEC production of nearly 57 million barrels daily, according to Global Risk Insights.

Despite waning influence, OPEC’s refusal to set production limits has played a major role in creating an oil glut, precipitating a two-year crisis that has seen the price of oil drop to as low as $26 per barrel earlier this year before climbing to $52 this month. That compares to prices of about $110 per barrel in 2014, when the crisis began.

Some OPEC nations, led by Saudi Arabia, have been willing to absorb the financial shocks of plummeting oil prices in order to preserve market share, reasoning that the low prices would drive competitors, notably U.S. shale oil producers, out of business.

OPEC has rebuffed calls to limit production by members Algeria and Venezuela, which have been hard hit by the slump.

Saudis take a financial hit

Saudi Arabia itself has not been immune to the financial impact of low oil prices.

The Gulf nation has spent more than $150 billion of its reserves in less than two years and posted a deficit of $98 billion last year.

Earlier this year, the Saudis borrowed $10 billion from a consortium of international banks, its first foreign debt in 25 years. The government also was considering asking creditors to take IOUs because it cannot pay its bills.

Oil rig at Bakken Formation

Oil rig at Bakken Formation

The OPEC strategy to let oil prices fall in order to wound its competitors has had mixed results, especially in the United States.

While 59 shale oil companies in the U.S. have filed for bankruptcy, production has dropped only slightly because of more efficient production. While financially troubled, the U.S. shale production should be able to rebound quickly once oil prices start rising, perhaps as early as next year.

Deal with Russia falls through

OPEC also came under fire from a top Russian oil executive in the spring, after a proposed deal between OPEC and Russia to freeze output fell through.

Igor Sechin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, said tensions between Saudi Arabia and fellow OPEC member Iran have undermined the oil cartel. Saudi Arabia and Iran are vying for political dominance in the Middle East, and Iran, freed from Western economic sanctions, has vowed to significantly increase its oil exports.

“At the moment a number of objective factors exclude the possibility for any cartels to dictate their will to the market,’’ Sechin said. “As for OPEC, it has practically stopped existing as a united organization.”

Saudis pledge economic reform

Meanwhile, the Saudis have pledged sweeping economic reforms that signal their intention to go their own way on oil prices.

The reforms aim to diversify the country’s oil-dependent economy by increasing non-oil revenue to $141 billion by 2020. However, Saudi Arabia said it would maintain its output of 12.5 million barrels per day until 2020.

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said his hope was that in 20 years the country would no longer be oil-dependent. The Saudi kingdom relies on oil for 80% of its revenue.

Saudi Arabia has vast oil reserves and has modernized production at a time when other oil producers including Venezuela and Iran have let their industries deteriorate.

At the OPEC meeting in early June, the Saudi oil minister also alluded to the waning clout of the cartel, saying that the market would determine prices.

“I think managing in the traditional way that we tried in the past may never come again,” Khalid al-Falih. Oil producers should “let the market forces continue to seek and find that equilibrium price between supply and demand.”

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Sasol warns U.S cracker could cost $11 bln, expects lower returns

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

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s Sasol on Monday raised its forecast for the cost of its U.S. ethane cracker by 26 percent to as much as $11 billion due to construction delays and also flagged lower expected returns from it.

The Lake Charles Chemicals Project in the state of Louisiana which includes a cracker will produce 1.5 million tonnes of ethylene a year for use in plastics and chemicals.

Shares in Sasol, which had previously forecast its cost at $8.9 billion, where down by more than 5 percent as of 0730 GMT.

The petrochemicals maker said in a statement that higher-than-expected rainfall had contributed to delays in the project.

It also said costs had been boosted by higher labour costs, building materials and bid contract prices.

The world’s biggest maker of motor fuel from coal said it now expected lower returns due to “changes in long-term price assumptions and the higher capital estimates”.

Returns will be down by as much as the company’s lower long-term price assumptions, Sasol said.

Lower oil prices have forced the company, which makes 40 percent of its revenue from the fuel, to lower its dividend, delay major projects and cut jobs.

The cracker will be funded by existing loans and cash flow without breaching Sasol’s gearing targets. Sasol has already spent $4.5 billion on the project which is about 40 percent complete.

Sasol also warned that full-year headline earnings per share, a popular measure of profit, would fall by 10 to 30 percent due to low oil prices and an impairment charge on operations in Canada.

“The volatile macroeconomic environment, in particular lower crude oil prices, has had a significant impact on earnings,” Sasol said.


(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; editing by Jason Neely)

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Tanzania’s energy regulator raises retail fuel prices, citing costly crude

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

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – Tanzania’s energy regulator raised maximum retail prices on fuel on Friday, citing higher international crude oil and refined product prices, a move expected to exert upward pressure on inflation.

Fuel prices have a big effect on the inflation rate in the east African country, which slowed to 5.1 percent year-on-year in April from 5.4 percent the previous month.

The Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (EWURA) raised the retail price of petrol by 4.49 percent and the price of diesel by 1.95 percent.

Maximum kerosene prices were raised 1.84 percent in the latest monthly price caps, which take immediate effect.

“To a large extent, increases in wholesale and retail local petroleum products prices have been caused by the continued increase of petroleum products prices in the world market,” EWURA said.

The regulator increased the price of petrol in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam by 80 shillings ($0.0366) a litre to 1,865 shillings, and the price of diesel in the capital by 31 shillings to 1,633 shillings.

Kerosene prices in the commercial capital rose 29 shillings to 1,607 shillings per litre.


($1 = 2,187.0000 Tanzanian shillings)


(Reporting by Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala; editing by Elias Biryabarema and Adrian Croft)

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OPEC fails to agree policy but Saudis pledge no shocks

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

VIENNA (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia promised on Thursday not to flood the oil market with extra barrels even as OPEC failed to agree on output policy, with Iran insisting on the right to raise production steeply.

Tensions between the Sunni-led kingdom and the Shi’ite Islamic Republic have been the highlights of several previous OPEC meetings, including in December 2015 when the group failed to agree on a formal output target for the first time in years.

Tensions were less acute on Thursday as Saudi Arabia’s new energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, showed Riyadh wanted to be more conciliatory and OPEC decided unanimously to appoint Nigeria’s Mohammed Barkindo as the group’s new secretary-general.

Several OPEC sources said Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies had tried to propose a new collective ceiling in an attempt to repair OPEC’s waning importance and end a market-share battle that has sapped prices and cut investment.

But OPEC sources said the organisation had failed to agree on output policy and set a new ceiling.

Despite the setback, Saudi Arabia moved to soothe market fears that failure to reach any deal would prompt OPEC’s largest producer, already pumping near record highs, to raise production further to punish rivals and gain additional market share.

“We will be very gentle in our approach and make sure we don’t shock the market in any way,” Falih told reporters.

“There is no reason to expect that Saudi Arabia is going to go on a flooding campaign,” Falih said when asked whether Saudi Arabia could add more barrels to the market.

The market has grown increasingly used to OPEC clashes over the past two years as political foes Riyadh and Tehran fight proxy wars in Syria and Yemen.

Saudi Arabia effectively scuppered plans for a global production freeze – aimed at stabilising oil markets – in April. It said then that it would join the deal, which would also have involved non-OPEC Russia, only if Iran agreed to freeze output.

Tehran has been the main stumbling block for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to agree on output policy over the past year as the country boosted supplies despite calls from other members for a production freeze.

Tehran argues it should be allowed to raise production to levels seen before the imposition of now-ended Western sanctions over Iran’s nuclear programme.

Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said Tehran would not support any new collective output ceiling and wanted the debate to focus on individual country production quotas.

“Without country quotas, OPEC cannot control anything,” Zanganeh told reporters. He insisted Tehran deserved a quota – based on historic output levels – of 14.5 percent of OPEC’s overall production.

OPEC is pumping 32.5 million barrels per day (bpd), which would give Iran a quota of 4.7 million bpd – well above its current output of 3.8 million, according to Tehran’s estimates, and 3.5 million, based on market estimates.



That “OPEC could not agree on a relatively benign deal which would have been constructive for price is a sign that political differences are undermining the organisation”, said Gary Ross, founder of U.S.-based PIRA consultancy.

“It is bearish short-term for oil prices. But what is also important is that Saudis are not planning to flood the market and want higher prices,” he added.

Falih was the first OPEC minister to arrive in Vienna this week, signalling he takes the organisation seriously despite fears among fellow members that Riyadh is no longer keen to have OPEC set output.

“There could be shorter-term situations in which, in our view, OPEC might intervene and yet other situations — such as long-term growth of marginal barrels — in which case it should not,” Falih told Argus Media ahead of the meeting.

At its previous meeting in December 2015, OPEC effectively allowed its 13 members to pump at will.

As a result, prices crashed to $27 per barrel in January, their lowest in over a decade, but have since recovered to around $50 due to global supply outages.

Until December 2015, OPEC had a ceiling of 30 million bpd – in place since December 2011, although it effectively abandoned individual production quotas years ago.

For a Take-a-Look on Reuters stories on OPEC, click on


(By Reem Shamseddine, Rania El Gamal and Alex Lawler. Additional reporting by ⁠⁠⁠⁠Shadia Nasralla⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠; Writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Dale Hudson)


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Nigeria finmin says gov’t revenues fall in April due to oil

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

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria’s distributable revenues to the three tiers of government fell in April to 281.5 billion naira ($1.42 billion), down 18.25 billion naira from March due to low oil prices, the West African country’s finance minister said on Wednesday.

The fall in revenue was caused by the “drop in the average price of crude oil,” Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun told journalists.

“A marginal drop in income was recorded from oil and gas royalties and import duties,” she added.

Nigeria, a member of OPEC, relies on crude sales for about 70 percent of its government revenues.

But with Africa’s largest economy now contracting, uncertainty around a foreign exchange policy shift that was announced without full details being provided and a new Niger Delta insurgency sending oil output to a 20-year low, it is a plight that gets worse by the day. [nL5N18K2X9]

The sharp fall in global crude prices since mid-2014, has hurt the country’s public funds and left many states unable to pay public salaries on time or fund infrastructure projects and other state services.

($1 = 198.8000 Nigerian naira)


(Reporting by Camillus Eboh, writing by Alexis Akwagyiram, editing by G Crosse)

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Tanker begins delayed oil loading at Libya’s Hariga

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

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – A tanker that had been blocked for three weeks in a stand-off over oil exports at the eastern Libyan port of Marsa al-Hariga entered the port and began loading on Thursday, officials said.

The Seachance, which had been waiting to load oil for Glencore on behalf of the Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation (NOC), was loading 600,000 barrels for shipment to Britain, port and oil officials said.

Exports from Hariga have been blocked since early this month due to a dispute between competing eastern and western branches of the NOC.

The blockage reduced production from the eastern Messla and Sarir fields, lowering Libya’s output to around 200,000 barrels per day (bpd), a fraction of the 1.6 million bpd the OPEC member country was producing before the toppling of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The heads of the two NOC branches reached an agreement in principle to resume shipments at talks held in Vienna last weekend, but details of the deal were not made public.

If further shipments are allowed to leave Hariga Libya could quickly raise its output to more than 300,000 bpd.

The Messla and Sarir fields were previously producing more than 200,000 bpd, though Omran al-Zwai, a spokesman for eastern NOC subsidiary AGOCO, said the company needed a budget for new equipment to ensure maximum production.

The oil dispute is tied up in the broader conflict between rival political and armed factions in Libya. The NOC in Tripoli is working with a new U.N.-backed unity government to try to revive oil production, but its rivals in the east tried last month to export a tanker of oil independently.

After the tanker was blacklisted and forced to return to a western Libyan port, the eastern NOC prevented the Seachance from loading at Hariga.

Oil trader Glencore, which had been exporting crude oil from the port under a deal reached late last year, on Thursday declined to comment.

In the past three years a combination of labour disputes, factional rivalries and security threats have shut down some of Libya’s key oil fields and facilities.

But the eastern ports of Hariga and Brega have continued to operate. On Wednesday a tanker loaded 600,000 barrels of oil at Brega for shipment to Italy, a port official said.


(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli and Ahmad Ghaddar; writing by Aidan Lewis; editing by Greg Mahlich and Jason Neely)

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African governments seek bailouts as commodity prices fall

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Politics

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Angola is the latest nation to seek an aid package from the International Monetary Fund as its oil-dominated economy falters.

As its economy buckles under the weight of falling oil prices, Angola is turning to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout.

By one estimate, the West African nation faces a shortfall of $8 billion, or 9 percent of its gross domestic product, this year. Angola last borrowed from the IMF in 2009.

Angola is one of several cash-strapped African countries that are turning to the IMF for financial help as prices drop for commodities such as oil and minerals.

Ghana agreed to an aid package in 2015, it’s first from the IMF in six years. Zambia is also in talks for IMF aid, which would be its first since 2008. Zimbabwe has also asked the IMF for its first loan in nearly two decades.

Meanwhile, the IMF stopped a $55 million loan to Mozambique – part of a bailout approved last year – after discovering the country had failed to report $1 billion in unreported loans it owes.

South Africa and Nigeria may also be forced to turn to the IMF as their economies struggle.

Angola faces shortfall

Angola’s request was an about-face after the nation repeatedly said it would not turn to the IMF for help in the current crisis because the aid would come with too many conditions.

But the country’s reserves have fallen as oil prices stayed below $45 a barrel and the government is reluctant to cut services in advance of elections in 2017.

Oil accounts for 95 percent of Angola’s exports and about half of the government’s revenue. In addition to slumping oil revenues, the country has suffered a retrenchment by China, which has its own economic problems.

Monetary agency requires transparency

In exchange for IMF aid, the Angolan government is likely to be forced to be more transparent about its financial dealings as the international agency typically scrutinizes the finances of countries it assists.

One criticism of Angola’s economy is the extent to which it is controlled by President José Eduardo dos Santos, who has ruled the country for more than three decades. While nearly half of the country’s population subsists on just over $1 per day, dos Santos’ daughter, Isabel dos Santos, is the richest woman in Africa, raising questions about the source of her wealth. Isabel dos Santos has denied using state money to enrich herself.

“The IMF stands ready to help Angola address the economic challenges it is currently facing by supporting a comprehensive policy package to accelerate the diversification of the economy, while safeguarding macroeconomic and financial stability,” Min Zhu, IMF deputy managing director, said in a statement.

One expert urged caution. Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, an Angola expert at Oxford University, noted that a study in 2011 by IMF staff found that the government could not account for $32 billion between 2007 and 2010.

“The IMF should use the leverage it has to extract serious concessions and tangible reforms from the government,” de Oliveira said.

Ghana receives bailout

Angola is the not the only country turning the IMF.

Ghana, an oil and gold producer, received a three-year, $918 million bailout in 2015. The country saw the value of its crude exports cut in half between 2014 and 2015, falling to $1.5 million in the first three quarters of last year as both prices and demand fell. Gold exports fell by nearly one third to $2.4 million.

In December, the IMF also agreed to a $283 bailout loan package for Mozambique that required the southern African nation to disclose all of its borrowing. In April, the IMF said it stopped a disbursement of $55 million after learning the country had not reported millions in loans by Credit Suisse Group and the Russian VTB Group.

Mozambique, a natural gas producer, saw exports fall by 14 percent in 2015.

Zambia, Africa’s second largest copper producer, saw a shortfall of 8 percent of gross domestic product in 2015 and is also seeking IMF assistance in 2016. Zimbabwe also expects an IMF loan in the third quarter of this year.

In addition to the IMF aid, the World Bank said it expects to lend up to $25 billion this year to countries reeling from falling commodity prices.

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Nigerian oil output down 40% on Delta pipeline attacks

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

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria’s oil production has fallen by almost 40 percent to 1.4 million barrels a day due to militant attacks on facilities in the Delta region, its oil minister said on Monday.

Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu’s comments come amid a resurgence of militancy in the southern region which produces most of the crude oil that Nigeria relies on for around 70 percent of national income, and days after Britain’s foreign minister said local grievances need to be addressed. [nL5N18B0L2]

Kachikwu said efforts would be made to engage with people in the area.

Nigerian oil output has been driven lower after attacks by a group calling itself the Niger Delta Avengers which says it wants a greater share of oil profits and independence for the swampy region where residents have long complained of poverty.

Attacks in the last few weeks have hit platforms belonging to Chevron and Shell.

“Because of the incessant attacks and disruption of production in the Niger Delta, as I talk to you now, we are now producing about 1.4 million barrels per day,” Kachikwu told the House of Representatives.

“We were at 2.2 million bpd but we have lost 800,000 barrels,” said Kachikwu, who was invited to address the lower house of parliament about the country’s oil sector.

The 2016 budget assumes oil production of 2.2 million barrels per day at $38 a barrel.

Nigeria has moved in army reinforcements to hunt the militants but British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond on Saturday said the government needed to the deal with the root causes of the conflict because a military confrontation could end in “disaster”.

Kachikwu echoed these sentiments when he told parliamentarians experience had shown that force alone tends not to solve problems.

“There are going to be robust engagements on what could have happened to the contract or relationship that used to exist between the Niger Delta and the Nigerian police that has suddenly resorted to sabotage,” said Kachikwu.

President Muhammadu Buhari has extended a multi-million dollar amnesty signed with militants in 2009 but upset them by ending generous pipeline protection contracts.

“We are trying to look at the amnesty and what has happened. Policing is key, security is key and throwing economic palliative to those sectors are also key,” added Kachikwu.

He said the government was “trying to create funding mechanisms for some private investments including funding mechanisms for some modular refineries” and “actually getting them involved in the security of the facilities”.


(By Camillus Eboh. Writing by Ulf Laessing and Alexis Akwagyiram; editing by Adrian Croft and David Evans)

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