Iraq’s SOMO close to JV with China’s Zhenhua to boost crude sales

Flames rise from the burning of excess hydrocarbons at the Hammar Mushrif new Degassing Station Facilities site inside the Zubair oil and gas field, north of the southern Iraqi province of Basra on May 9, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 27 August 2018
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Iraq’s SOMO close to JV with China’s Zhenhua to boost crude sales

  • The move will bolster Iraq’s position in Asia, the world’s biggest and fastest-growing oil-consuming region
  • China is under the pressure to cut oil purchases from Iran, OPEC’s third-largest producer

BEIJING/DUBAI: Iraq’s state oil marketer SOMO is close to a deal with China’s state-run Zhenhua Oil to boost the OPEC member’s crude oil sales to the world’s top oil importer, four sources with knowledge of the matter said.
Iraq is the second-largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The move will bolster Iraq’s position in Asia, the world’s biggest and fastest-growing oil-consuming region, which already takes 60 percent its oil exports at some 3.8 million barrels a day (bpd).
“Zhenhua helped Iraq to penetrate the Chinese market and make more revenues for Iraq,” said a senior source familiar with the discussions on the deal, adding that a 50/50 proposed joint venture could be finalized in October or November.
Another source said the deal was pending regulatory approvals, giving no further details.
It is not clear where the JV would be located, but two of the sources familiar with the negotiations said the port city of Tianjin, near Beijing, was under discussion. Singapore is also among the options, they said.
All four sources declined to be named as they were not authorized to discuss commercial matters with media.
Zhenhua declined to comment. SOMO did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Under Pressure

China is under the pressure to cut oil purchases from Iran, OPEC’s third-largest producer, as the United States re-imposes sanctions on Tehran and threatens to choke off the Islamic republic’s oil exports to zero.
Amid the trade dispute between Washington and Beijing it is also unclear whether Chinese importers will be able to continue to import US crude.
The SOMO-Zhenhua deal would give China another crude supply option as the Iran and US oil flows are threatened.
Zhenhua’s relationship with SOMO goes back to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s days, when China-based parent company defense conglomerate Norinco, was among the first Chinese entities active in Iraq’s oil and gas exploration.
Last year, Zhenhua won a term contract to supply diesel fuel to SOMO for the first time, and it also recently entered a deal to develop Iraq’s East Baghdad oilfield.
Zhenhua has been marketing Iraq’s main crude grade, Basra Light, for SOMO since the start of 2018 and has also sold some to Taiwan, said a separate Singapore-based trading source.
Zhenhua, the smallest of China’s state-run oil and gas majors, has over the past three years expanded its foothold in oil sales to independent Chinese refiners, which were only allowed to start importing crude from 2015 and now make up some 20 percent of China’s total crude imports.
Zhenhua’s crude sales to such independents, sometimes known as “teapots,” hit a record 6.5 million tons last year, or 131,000 bpd, equivalent to about 7 percent of overall teapot purchases, according to industry estimates.
China’s state oil majors Sinopec, CNOOC and PetroChina are regular Iraqi oil customers under term supply deals with SOMO or oilfield service contracts.


Egypt stock market plunges as retail investors take flight

Updated 19 September 2018
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Egypt stock market plunges as retail investors take flight

  • Biggest index drop in Egypt since mid-2016
  • Saudi Arabia outperforms in Gulf

LONDON: Egyptian stocks tumbled to their lowest level this year on Wednesday as retail investors took flight.
A sharp rise in Suez Canal revenues, a major foreign exchange earner for the country, was not enough to quell investors concerns about the strength of the currency.
The main Egyptian stock index lost 3.8 percent which some fund managers blamed on generally negative sentiment toward emerging markets worldwide as well as more local speculation about possible currency devaluation.
“Our channel checks suggest the sell-off in the Egyptian market is local retail and institutions driven, on currency fears and speculation over a further round of devaluation,” said Vrajesh Bhandari, portfolio manager at Al Mal in Dubai, Reuters reported.
“Selling is further intensified as margin calls are triggered and technical support levels break down. The country canceled three consecutive Treasury auctions, citing investors’ unrealistic yield demands.”
Egypt’s Suez Canal revenues rose to $502.2 million in August up 6.7 percent from a year earlier according to official data released on Wednesday.
Elsewhere regional stock markets closed mostly lower with the exceptions of Abu Dhabi which edged 0.2 percent higher and Saudi Arabia, the best regional performer, which rose by 1.1 percent.
Saudi stocks are benefiting from the strong oil price which eased slightly yesterday but still hovered just under $79.
OPEC and some other oil producers including Russia will meet in Algeria on Sept. 23 to discuss how to allocate supply increases within their quota framework to offset the loss of oil exports from Iran following the introduction of sanctions by the US.
Those measures will come into force on Nov. 4 and data suggests that buyers are already retreating from Iranian crude purchases.
A key question for the oil price as well as regional stock markets in the weeks ahead will be the extent to which other Gulf oil exporters can compenaste for the loss of Iranian supplies by pumping more.