India’s ONGC files arbitration claim against Sudan over unpaid oil dues

India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corp’s acquired a 25 percent stake in the Greater Nile Oil Project in Sudan in 2003. (Reuters)
Updated 17 April 2018
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India’s ONGC files arbitration claim against Sudan over unpaid oil dues

NEW DELHI: The foreign acquisition unit of India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corp’s (ONGC) has filed an arbitration claim against the government of Sudan in a London court, a company official said, seeking to recover dues pending for years from a project hit by the breakaway of South Sudan in 2011.
People familiar with the matter in India and Sudan said ONGC had filed a claim for $98.94 million, in what they said was a first for the South Asian nation’s top oil and gas explorer against any government. They declined to be identified because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter with media.
At the center of the dispute is ONGC’s 25 percent stake the company acquired in the Greater Nile Oil Project (GNOP) in Sudan in 2003. Other stakeholders include China’s China National Petroleum Corp. with a 40 percent stake and Malaysia’s Petronas with a 30 percent share.
“Yes, we have filed an arbitration as our dues have been pending for years,” said N. K. Verma, managing director of ONGC Videsh Ltd. (OVL). “Notwithstanding this arbitration we will continue to work with Sudan going forward,” he said, declining to provide details on the timing and location of any hearings, or the amount being sought.
The current arbitration is only for a part of pending dues that add up to about $425 million, sources said, adding ONGC has sued the government as the contracts were backed by sovereign guarantees.
ONGC will also file arbitrations for the remaining outstanding amount in due course, said a company official, who declined to be identified.
Officials in Sudan said contacts and negotiations with ONGC were being lined up.
“We have addressed the company (ONGC) to show our commitment to serious negotiation and we (have) set up a committee to determine the time frame to pay back the sum in installments,” said Bekheet Ahmed Abdullah, under-secretary for Sudan’s Petroleum Ministry.
OVL’s stake in the Greater Nile Oil Project comprised Blocks 1, 2 and 4, and the firm also agreed to build a 1,500-kilometer pipeline to Port Sudan on the Red Sea. But in 2011 South Sudan broke away from Sudan, after decades of civil war, and took control of blocks 1A, 1B and a part of block 4.


Gulf companies challenged by debt and rising interest rates

Updated 22 April 2018
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Gulf companies challenged by debt and rising interest rates

  • Debt restructurings on the rise, but below crisis levels
  • Central Bank of the UAE has raised interest rates four times since last March

There has been an uptick in recent months in heavily-borrowed companies in the Gulf seeking to restructure their debts with lenders. Although the pressure on companies is not comparable to levels witnessed in the region following the 2008 global financial crisis, rising interest rates will eventually begin to have a greater impact, say experts.
Speaking exclusively to Arab news, Matthew Wilde, a partner at consultancy PwC in Dubai, said: “We do expect that interest rate increases will gradually start to impact companies over the next 12 months, but to date the impact of hedging and the runoff of older fixed rate deals has meant the impact is fairly muted so far.”
The Central Bank of the UAE has raised interest rates four times since the start of last year, in line with action taken by the US Federal Reserve. The Fed has signalled that it will raise interest rates at least twice more before the end of the year.
Wilde added that there had been a little more pressure on company balance sheets of late, although “this shouldn’t be overplayed”.
Nevertheless, just last week, Stanford Marine Group — majority owned by a fund managed by private equity firm Abraaj Group — was reported by the New York Times to be in talks with banks to restructure a $325 million Islamic loan. The newspaper cited a Reuters report that relied on “banking sources”.
The Dubai-based oil and gas services firm, which has struggled as a result of the downturn in the hydrocarbons market since 2014, has reportedly asked banks to consider extending the maturity of its debt and restructuring repayments, after it breached certain loan covenants.
A fund managed by Abraaj owns 51 percent of Stanford Marine, with the remaining stake held by Abu Dhabi-based investment firm Waha Capital. Abraaj declined to comment.

 

Dubai-based theme parks operator DXB Entertainments struck a deal last month with creditors to restructure 4.2 billion dirhams ($1.1 billion) of borrowings, with visitor numbers to attractions such as Legoland Dubai and Bollywood Parks Dubai struggling to meet visitor targets.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Sharjah-based Gulf General Investment Company was in talks with banks to restructure loan and credit facilities after defaulting on a payment linked to 2.1 billion dirhams of debt at the end of last year.
Dubai International Capital, according to a Bloomberg report from December, has restructured its debt for the second time, reaching an agreement with banks to roll over a loan of about $1 billion. At the height of the emirate’s boom years, DIC amassed assets worth about $13 billion, including the owner of London’s Madame Tussauds waxworks museum, as well as stakes in Sony and Daimler. The firm was later forced to sell most of these assets and reschedule $2.5 billion of debt after the global financial crisis.
Wilde told Arab News: “We have seen an increasing number of listed companies restructuring or planning to restructure their capital recently — including using tools such as capital reductions and raising capital by using quasi equity instruments such as perpetual bonds.”
This has happened across the region and PwC expected this to accelerate a little as companies “respond to legislative pressures and become more familiar with the options available to fix their problems,” said Wilde.
He added that the trend was being driven by oil prices remaining below historical highs, soft economic conditions, and continued caution in the UAE’s banking sector.
On the debt restructuring side, Wilde said there had been a “reasonably steady flow of cases of debts being restructured”.
However, the volume of firms seeking to renegotiate debt remains small compared to the level of restructurings witnessed in the aftermath of Dubai’s debt crisis.
Several big name firms in the emirate were caught out by the onset of the global financial crisis, which saw the emirate’s booming economy and real estate market go into reverse.
State-owned conglomerate Dubai World, whose companies included real-estate firm Nakheel and ports operator DP World, stunned global markets in November 2009 when it asked creditors for a six-month standstill on its obligations. Dubai World restructured around $25 billion of debt in 2011, followed by a $15 billion restructuring deal in 2015.
“We would not expect it to become (comparable to 2008-9) so barring some form of sharp external impetus such as global political instability or a protectionist trade war,” said Wilde.
Nor did he see the introduction of VAT as particularly driving this trend, but rather as just one more factor impacting some already strained sectors (e.g. some sub sectors of retail) “which were already pressured by other macro factors.”

FACTOID

Four

The number of interest rate rises in the UAE since March 2017.