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Nigeria kept in the dark by Shell

REUTERS

Nigeria says not aware of any Shell oil sale plans

Nick Tattersall
LAGOS
Mon Dec 21, 2009 3:52am EST

LAGOS (Reuters) – Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) has not informed the government of any plans to sell oil fields in Nigeria, as reported by several newspapers over the weekend, Minister of State for Petroleum Odein Ajumogobia said on Monday.

The UK’s Sunday Times reported that Europe’s largest oil company planned to sell fields valued at up to $5 billion as the OPEC member prepares to impose harsher terms on foreign operators and hand greater control to domestic oil firms.

“Shell has not informed the government of any such plans,” Ajumogobia told Reuters, when asked about the reports.

“It is indeed curious, if the reports making the rounds in this regard are true, that Shell seem so keen on renewing their expired shallow water leases. We certainly intend to make a formal inquiry,” he said.

Shell, the longest-standing foreign oil firm in Africa’s biggest oil and gas producer, has declined to comment. It operates onshore through its SPDC joint venture, in which state oil firm NNPC holds 55 percent and Shell holds 30 percent.

“I am not aware of any talks with NNPC regarding the sale of Shell assets in Nigeria. Shell cannot on its own unilaterally say it wants to sell anything that does not belong to it alone,” NNPC spokesman Levi Ajuonoma said.

The reports come as Nigeria’s parliament considers controversial legislation to overhaul its energy sector, which would redefine its relationship with foreign oil partners.

The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) aims to break NNPC, long hampered by funding shortfalls which have affected its joint ventures, into private profit-driven units able to tap international capital markets. The move could prompt some of the biggest financing deals of their kind ever done in Africa.

But oil firms are nervous about holding stakes in private companies over which they do not have management control.

Under the PIB, the government would also be allowed to renegotiate old contracts, impose higher costs on oil companies and retake acreage that firms have yet to explore.

Nigeria’s two chambers of parliament will independently review the legislation before working on a harmonized version next year which could then be enshrined in law.

INDUSTRY SHAKE-UP

Foreign oil companies have warned the plans contained in the Petroleum Industry Bill could threaten billions of dollars of investment if they go ahead in their current form.

The Sunday Times said Chinese state-owned oil group Sinopec had requested information and that Nigeria’s independent oil group Oando (OANDO.LG) and London-listed Afren (AFRE.L) could also be interested in buying Shell assets.

Oando Chief Executive Wale Tinubu told Reuters in January that the firm was planning acquisitions to grow its upstream business and that the PIB, which aims to increase participation by indigenous firms in the oil sector, could release assets it would be interested in buying.

Nigeria’s presidential adviser on energy, Emmanuel Egbogah, said earlier this month China was ready to invest $50 billion to acquire 6 billion barrels of Nigerian oil.

Chinese state energy firm CNOOC in September identified 23 licenses in Nigeria in which it would like to buy stakes, including 16 operated by Shell, Chevron (CVX.N) and ExxonMobil (XOM.N) which expired last November and were up for renewal.

Chevron and Exxon won a year’s extension, while Shell successfully sought a court injunction last November allowing it to continue to operate. The Anglo-Dutch firm is still in talks with the Nigerian government over its license renewals.

Last month Nigeria renewed three shallow water oil licenses jointly operated with ExxonMobil, granting the U.S. energy firm leases of a further 20 years with the option to renew again.

COMMENT POSTED ON THE ARTICLE

There is nothing knew about Shell keeping a host Country in the dark, as appears to be the case in Nigeria.

It came as a huge shock to the Russian government when Shell suddenly announced that the cost of the Sakhalin II gas project had doubled from $10 billion to $20 billion. As a result of that issue and Shell withholding other vital information about the project, the Russians forced Shell into surrendering its majority stake to Gazprom. Shell is now a junior partner.

Remember this is a company which even deliberately withheld vital information from its own shareholders. I refer to the reserves scandal in 2004 which resulted in fines from the SEC and FSA, settlements of class action law suits and massive and lasting consequential damage to Shell’s reputation.

Will Shell never learn from past sins and blunders?

Posted by John Donovan of royaldutchshellplc.com

REUTERS ARTICLE

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