Pakistani and Chinese businesses free to choose the yuan for bilateral trade and investment

A Pakistani currency dealer counts Chinese currency for a customer in Quetta. Pakistan will allow the Chinese yuan to be used for imports, exports and financing transactions for bilateral trade and investment activities, in a move economists said would simplify a massive Chinese investment project. (AFP)
Updated 04 January 2018
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Pakistani and Chinese businesses free to choose the yuan for bilateral trade and investment

KARACHI: State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has taken steps to ensure that imports, exports and financing transactions can be denominated in Chinese Yuan (CNY).
Both public and private-sector enterprises in Pakistan and China are free to choose CNY for bilateral trade and investment activities, the country’s central bank announced on Tuesday.
Chinese yuan, under current foreign exchange regulations, is an approved foreign currency for denominating foreign currency transactions in Pakistan.
The SBP has already put in place the required regulatory framework which facilitates use of CNY in trade and investment transactions such as the opening of letter of credits (l/cs) and availing financing facilities in CNY.
In terms of regulations in Pakistan, CNY is on a par with other international currencies such as the US dollar, euro, and Japanese yen, the spokesman of SBP said.
After signing the currency swap agreement (CSA) with People’s Bank of China (PBoC), the SBP had taken a series of steps to promote use of CNY in Pakistan for bilateral trade and investment with China. The SBP allowed banks to accept CNY deposits and give CNY trade loans.
The central bank said that the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited (ICBC) Pakistan has been allowed to establish a local CNY settlement and clearing setup in Pakistan enabling it to open CNY accounts of the banks operating in Pakistan and to facilitate settlement of CNY based transactions such as remittance to and from China. With the opening of Bank of China in Pakistan, the access to onshore Chinese markets will strengthen further. Apart from the above, several banks in Pakistan maintain onshore CNY nostro accounts.
The central bank had permitted authorized dealers to open foreign currency accounts and extend trade loans under the FE-25 scheme in US dollars, pound sterling, euros, Japans yen, Canadian dollars, UAE dirhams, Saudi riyals, Chinese yuan, Swiss francs and Turkish lira.
According to the spokesman, for onward lending the proceeds of currency swap agreement, the SBP has put in place a loan mechanism for banks to get the CNY financing from SBP for onward lending to importers and exporters having underlying trade transactions denominated in CNY.
The currency swap arrangement was executed between State Bank of Pakistan and People’s Bank of China (PBoC) on Dec. 31, 2011. The central bank had explained the modus operandi of this liquidity facility for banks.
The bank through a circular had allowed all authorized dealers to take foreign exchange deposits and extend loans in CNY for financing of imports and exports in accordance with prevailing instructions on loans and deposits. In order to provide CNY funding to scheduled banks, so that they can lend CNY to importers and exporters with underlying trade documents in CNY, the SBP will conduct competitive auctions of Chinese yuan loan facility using proceeds of the currency swap arrangement with the PBoC.
Considering the recent local and global economic developments, particularly with the growing size of trade and investment with China under the China\Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC), the SBP foresees that CNY denominated trade with China will increase significantly and yield long term benefits for both countries.


UAE sovereign wealth fund Mubadala pays $271m for stake in Gazprom oil subsidiary

Updated 24 May 2018
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UAE sovereign wealth fund Mubadala pays $271m for stake in Gazprom oil subsidiary

  • Abu Dhabi’s state-owned Mubadala Investment Company (MIC) has agreed to pay $271 million for a 44 percent stake
  • Move underpins a strengthening alliance between Moscow and Opec’s Middle East countries

LONDON: Abu Dhabi’s state-owned Mubadala Investment Company (MIC) has agreed to pay $271 million for a 44 percent stake in an oil subsidiary of Russian gas giant Gazprom. 

The move underpins a strengthening alliance between Moscow and Opec’s Middle East countries, which joined forces to agree a supply-cut deal 18 months ago to stabilize the oil market after the price crashed in late 2014.

“This cements the link between GCC countries and Russia,” Giorgos Beleris, a Dubai-based oil analyst for Thomson Reuters, told Arab News.

Richard Mallinson, co-founder of London research consultancy Energy Aspects and a research associate with the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies, told Arab News that the GCC, and particularly the Saudis, had been talking “about aligning their goals in discussions about whether to extend a cap on crude production beyond 2018.” 

“They are after long-term cooperation, not just a short deal,” Mallinson said.

Shakil Begg, head of oil research for Thomson Reuters in London, said that joint ventures between Russian and Middle Eastern energy companies had become more common.

He added that Russia was still affected by certain sanctions, “so for them, it’s about getting access to technology and expertise.”

“Additional Gazprom production that could come on line is in difficult areas, such as the Arctic,” he said.

A joint statement about the deal from the UAE and Gazprom underlined Begg’s point. 

“For the first time, one of the largest investment funds in the UAE has invested in the Russian assets of Gazprom Neft, based in Western Siberia. The task of beginning cost-effective development of Paleozoic stocks can be more effectively solved within the framework of partnership, combining technological and financial resources,” the statement said.

Importantly, the two companies can make use of each other’s customer base in the Far East where demand, especially from China and India, has been strong.

MP said on its website: “(Our) major projects include exploration, development and production activities in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, where we operate the majority of our assets.

“Southeast Asia continues to be the core region of our operated activities where we have developed an excellent track record of safe and efficient operations,” it added.

In 2017, MP’s average working interest production was about 320,000 barrels per day of oil equivalent.

Begg said: “It appears like this deal is strategic to obtaining a greater share of the light crude market in the Far East.

“The deal involves crude production from several fields operated by Gazprom Neft which feed the ESPO pipeline that supply a number of Chinese refineries and a few in Japan. Given the quality of Russian ESPO is similar to the main crude onshore crudes produced by the UAE (also sold to consumers in the Far East), it is possible that Mubadala are trying to retain/increase its market share in Asia.”

The growing Russian/GCC alliance was underlined recently when Russian energy minister Alexander Novak said a joint organization for cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC countries may be set up once the current deal on oil output curbs expires at the end of this year.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Reuters in March that Saudi Arabia and Russia were working on a historic long-term pact, possibly 10 to 20 years long, that could extend controls over world crude supplies by major exporters.

Announced at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, the Russia/UAE agreement is between Gazprom, the Russian Direct Investment Fund RDIF) and MIC offshoot, Mubadala Petroleum (MP).

A statement by RDIF, the sovereign wealth fund of Russia, and MP said that it was creating a joint venture with Gazprom Neft to develop several oil fields in the Tomsk and Omsk regions.

RDIF and Mubadala Petroleum will acquire a 49 percent equity stake in Gazpromneft-Vostok, the operator of the fields. Mubadala Petroleum will hold 44 percent and RDIF 5 percent.

Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), said: “(This deal) brings the experience and expertise of our Middle East partners to the Russian oil and gas sector. (We) see this as the first step in creating a consortium to pursue further significant investments in the sector.”

Dr. Bakheet Al Katheeri, CEO of Mubadala Petroleum, said: “Through this new partnership, we will not only share but also further build on our expertise and capabilities in oil and gas while adding significant oil production to our existing oil and gas portfolio.”

Gazpromneft-Vostok controls seven subsoil licenses in Tomsk and the neighboring Omsk region; these contain both mature and undeveloped oilfields. Its proven and probable reserves stand at 296 million boe (barrels of oil equivalent), of which more than 80 percent is crude oil. According to the Russian energy ministry, the company produced 1.64 million tons (33,000 bpd) of oil in 2017, down 3 percent year on year.

Gazprom is looking to divest stakes in non-core assets to pay for its capital-intensive projects in the Arctic, namely the East-Messoyakhinskoye, Novoportovskoye and Prirazlomnoye oilfields, according to a report by Edinburgh-based website NewsBase.com.

In February, the company reportedly sold the West-Noyabrskoye field in Yamalo-Nenets to an unnamed buyer, and it is also looking to unload stakes in the Neptune oilfield off the coast of Sakhalin and the Chonsky project in Eastern Siberia. Gazprom Neft reported free cash flow of 65 billion rubles ($1.15 billion) at the end of 2017, versus a negative value a year earlier, NewsBase said.