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.


Angry Birds maker Rovio needs new games to revitalize sales

Updated 16 November 2018
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Angry Birds maker Rovio needs new games to revitalize sales

  • Rovio said tough competition and high marketing costs would put pressure on its full-year outlook
  • Rovio grew rapidly after the 2009 launch of the original ‘Angry Birds’ game

HELSINKI: Rovio Entertainment, the maker of the “Angry Birds” mobile game, on Friday said the company needed to come up with new games to drive growth and warned that sales would fall this year after reporting higher third-quarter profits.
The Finnish company, which listed its shares on the stock market in Helsinki last year, reported third-quarter adjusted operating profit of €10.4 million ($11.8 million), up from €4 million a year ago.
But Rovio said tough competition and high marketing costs would put pressure on its full-year outlook. The group said it expected 2018 sales to be between €280 million and €290 million, compared with a previous range of €260 million and €300 million. Last year, the company had revenues of €297 million.
“It is clear that we need new games in order to accelerate growth,” Rovio’s Chief Executive Kati Levoranta said in a statement, adding that the company planned to launch at least two new games next year and had another ten projects in the pipeline.
Rovio grew rapidly after the 2009 launch of the original “Angry Birds” game, in which players used slingshots to attack pigs who stole birds’ eggs. The company expanded into film with an Angry Birds movie in 2016, but more recently has been hit by its high dependency on the Angry Birds brand and tough competition.
After its initial public offering in September 2017, Rovio’s shares dropped 50 percent in February after the company said its sales could fall this year after 55 percent growth in 2017.
Rovio expects a movie sequel to boost business next year and the company has also stepped up investments in its spin-off company Hatch, which is building a Netflix-style streaming service for mobile games.
Full-year core operating profit margin is seen at 10-11 percent, up from a previous view of 9-11 percent.