Breakfast Wrap: Citadel’s New Energy Chief, Centamin Spat, Mubarak-Era Projects

Egyptian private equity outfit, Citadel Capital, has appointed petroleum industry veteran, Mohamed Shoeb, as Managing Director of its energy division.

It is the latest sign of how Citadel is quietly moving toward filling a gap in the energy market which is likely to be left after a reform of the country’s energy subsidies.

Shoeb is the former head of the state-run gas company, Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS), and prior to that was the vice Chairman for operations at the state oil company, Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC).

The problems attached to both companies do not reflect kindly on Shoeb; EGAS was at the centre of a politically controversial cancellation of a gas contract to Israel, while EGPC is facing a potential bail-out from Egypt’s banks because of a mounting debt pile to foreign oil companies and banks for energy exploration.

However, the former EGAS head brings experience and knowledge of the nation’s state energy industry (and its specific challenges) that would be hard to find elsewhere.  Importantly, he has deep connections in the sector that will come in very useful for Citadel at a time when its most high-profile investments are in the energy market. These include:

– a $3.7 billion financing package for the Egyptian Refining Company project 

– A joint venture with Qatari investors to import liquefied natural gas into Egypt from mid-2013

UPDATE – This morning Citadel Capital sent a statement saying it had sold one of its investments, in a further sign that the private equity firm is focusing its strategy around five sectors including energy and transportation.

Its portfolio company National Petroleum Company Egypt Ltd. sold National Petroleum Company Shukheir Marine Ltd. to Sea Dragon Holding Ltd., a subsidiary of Canada’s Sea Dragon Energy.

“This transaction is the first of a number that will see us exit non-core portfolio and platform companies as part of our transformation over the coming three years into an investment company,” said Citadel Chairman Ahmed Heikal.

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A spat between EGPC and Centamin’s Sukari goldmine appears to be almost resolved after customs authorities on Sunday allowed an export shipment of 1,600 kilograms of gold to the Netherlands, Egypt Independent reports.

Shipment had been halted by Egyptian customs because the petroleum and finance ministries had said Centamin owed the authorities back-dated payments for fuel. Centamin denied this and said its payments were up to date.

Josef El Raghy, chairman of Centamin, has faced labour strikes and fuel shortages that have forced the firm to halt production twice this year.

It’s a stark reminder of both a highly bureaucratic state where the lack of a signature can halt valuable exports that could shut a company down, and how fuel shortages at EGPC have the potential to trickle into important industries across Egypt.

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One clear characteristic of the Morsi administration’s economic programme is its resemblance to Mubarak-era projects.  The following is no exception.  Egypt Independent reports:

Prime Minister Hesham Qandil has tasked the agriculture, irrigation, electricity and investment ministries to begin implementing a project the government hopes will reclaim and cultivate a million new acres of farmable land over four years

The mega-project aims to build up wheat production by 25%, corn production by 15%, and oil production from 10% to 40%. Sounds ambitious. For many investors, this announcement may appear flippant, especially given the agriculture minister’s throwaway remarks that “the project aims to reach self-sufficient production levels”.  By when? And how? Critical questions such as this are almost never answered.
National Bank of Egypt, the country’s biggest state bank, will finance the project. NBE has increasingly become the “Bail-Out” bank of Egypt, supporting EGPC and stepping in when projects get pricey.
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Perhaps this project has the more realistic traits.  Egypt’s renewable energy authority, (NREA) will offer 7, 622km sq of land for private sector investors to wind energy stations under the Build, Operate, Transfer (BOT) scheme, Daily News Egypt reports.
The BOT scheme has been used by Egypt regularly in the past to help get past the financing hurdle for big infrastructure projects. It means a private entity receives a concession from the private or public sector to finance, design, construct, and operate a facility stated in the concession contract.  The government benefits from the final product – in this case, wind energy.
Under the BOT scheme:
Land would be sold to private companies for a small fee under the BOT scheme, granting them use anywhere between 20 to 25 years. Products used by private companies in the production of renewable energy sources would not be subject to taxes or customs duties.
Land is being offered in the Gulf of Suez area (1,222 sq km), West Nile (4,200 sq km) and East Nile (2,200 sq km) regions.
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Energy giant BP is seeking to change the terms of its contract with the Iraqi government for the Rumaila oilfield in a reflection of the challenges facing western oil companies as they try to ramp up oil production in a country still dogged by poor infrastructure, red tape and export bottlenecks, the Financial Times reports.
The company is asking to scale back production, underscoring “how a lack of infrastructure and bureaucratic problems are constraining the growth of Iraq’s oil industry, forcing companies operating there to re-evaluate their production plans”.  



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