Total renounces oil survey work off Western Sahara

Updated 21 December 2015
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Total renounces oil survey work off Western Sahara

RABAT: French oil giant Total will halt preliminary oil survey work off disputed Western Sahara, a region controlled by Morocco, due to disappointing results, a source said.
“Total has informed the Moroccan authorities that it would not request a new extension of its reconnaissance authorization in the Anzarane block,” said the source.
“The first analysis of seismic data didn’t find anything,” added the source.
However the decision comes less than two weeks after a farm trade deal between the European Union and Morocco was annulled by the EU’s top court because it illegally involved the disputed region of Western Sahara.
It also comes as oil companies are slashing investment as oil prices slide to 11-year lows, making many offshore projects no longer financially attractive.
Total received the contract to conduct geological survey work in the vast 100,000 block off Western Sahara in December 2011 and it was extended to December 2015, according to Total’s website.
The agreement excluded formal exploration work.
“The results of the geological surveys conducted in the Anzarane block... were not encouraging and the reconnaissance authorization will not be transformed into an exploration license,” a Total spokesman told AFP. Total’s work off Western Sahara had been controversial as the region has been disputed since Morocco took control of most of the territory in November 1975 after the end of Spanish colonization, unleashing a war for independence that lasted until 1991.
A UN-brokered cease-fire between Morocco and the Polisario Front, a movement in Western Sahara that has been campaigning for independence for decades with the backing of Morocco’s arch-rival Algeria, has held since then, but UN efforts to organize a referendum on the territory’s future have been resisted by Rabat.
Total insists on its website that independent experts it had consulted said the geological and geophysical works it carried out in the Anzarane block were “not legally in breach with international law or the United Nations charter.”
The Total spokesman said the company remains committed to the Moroccan market, noting in particular its filling station network had listed on the Casablanca stock exchange, as well as discussions on importing liquefied natural gas.


Chinese consumers pull back, but other indicators stabilize

Updated 39 min 28 sec ago
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Chinese consumers pull back, but other indicators stabilize

  • Retail sales slowed to an 8.6 percent year-on-year increase in October
  • The NBS blamed the deceleration on consumers holding off from making purchases until Singles Day
BEIJING: Chinese consumer spending slowed in October, official data showed Wednesday, adding to worries over the world’s second-largest economy, but investment and industrial production appeared to stabilize.
Concerns about China have increased in recent months after third-quarter growth came in at its slowest pace in nine years, and as trade frictions with the US have ratcheted upwards.
Chinese officials are currently engaging with their US counterparts as the two economic giants try to work out a compromise on trade ahead of President Xi Jinping’s meeting with Donald Trump later this month at the G20 gathering.
The National Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday that retail sales slowed to an 8.6 percent year-on-year increase in October, slightly short of estimates and down from 9.2 percent in September.
The NBS blamed the deceleration on consumers holding off from making purchases until Singles Day, China’s annual discount shopping bonanza that was held on November 11.
“Given uncertain and unstable factors abroad, there are concerns over the slower though stable economic development which is facing downward pressure,” bureau spokeswoman Liu Aihua told a news briefing.
“The world economy and trade growth momentum have weakened while international financial markets have been turbulent.”
Exports to the major US market have held up so far but analysts forecast a dimming picture in the months ahead, reinforcing the need for China to rely on its legions of domestic consumers to grow the economy.
The trade row with the US has sapped market confidence, dragging down Chinese equities and the yuan currency.
On the positive side, fixed-asset investment, a key economic driver, showed signs of rebounding.
It expanded 5.7 percent on-year for the first ten months of the year, picking up after hitting record lows this summer as Beijing’s push to get big projects moving this autumn lifted infrastructure spending.
Output at factories and workshops ticked up 5.9 percent in October, an improvement on the 5.8 percent in September, according to the NBS, and ahead of the 5.8 percent forecast in a Bloomberg News survey.
“Despite the uptick in industrial output and investment, we doubt that economic growth has bottomed out just yet,” Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics wrote in a research note.
He said local governments had held off on issuing bonds in recent weeks as they face budget limits.
“US tariffs have, if anything, acted as a prop to exports recently (due to front-loading by US importers) but are set to become a drag early next year,” he said.