Israeli gas company announces $15bn export deal with Egypt

A gas platform in the Mediterranean sea west of Israel’s port city of Ashdod. Delek Drilling and its US partner, Noble Energy have signed a deal to sell a total of 64 billion cubic meters of gas over a 10-year period to Egyptian company Dolphinus Holdings. (Reuters)
Updated 19 February 2018

Israeli gas company announces $15bn export deal with Egypt

JERUSALEM: An Israeli energy company on Monday announced a $15 billion deal to supply natural gas to Egypt, in the largest export agreement to date for Israel’s nascent natural gas industry.
Delek Drilling and its US partner, Noble Energy, signed a deal to sell a total of 64 billion cubic meters of gas over a 10-year period to Egyptian company Dolphinus Holdings.
Yossi Abu, chief executive of Delek Drilling, called the deal “great news” for both countries.
He said he expects most of the gas to be used for Egypt’s domestic market, but predicted it could pave the way for wider cooperation and help turn Egypt into an export hub for Israeli gas.
“I think that the main thing is that Egypt is becoming the real gas hub of the region,” he said.
Egypt was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, in 1979, but past economic agreements have been controversial in Egypt, where support for the Palestinians runs high. There was no immediate comment from Egyptian officials.
The gas will be delivered from Israel’s Tamar gas field, which is already operational, and the larger “Leviathan” field, which is set to go online in late 2019. The gas is expected to begin flowing late next year.
Several routes for shipping the gas are under consideration, with an existing pipeline between Jordan and Egypt a strong contender, Abu said. Israel already delivers gas to Jordan.
Israel has been developing natural gas fields off its Mediterranean coast for the past decade. In 2016, Delek and Noble signed Israel’s first export agreement, reaching a $10 billion, 15-year deal to provide 45 billion cubic meters of gas to Jordan.
The gas deals reflect Israel’s shared strategic interests with Jordan and Egypt, both of which are important US allies.
Israel maintains quiet security ties with both countries, particularly Egypt, which is battling an Islamic militant insurgency in its Sinai desert, near the Israeli border.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz called the deal a “very important milestone.”
“It is the first time since the signing of the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan that there are big, significant, serious export deals between Israel and the Arab world,” he told Army Radio.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed what he called “the historic agreement,” saying it would provide billions of dollars to state coffers as well.
Netanyahu said the deal validated his government’s controversial 2016 agreement with the Delek consortium to develop Israel’s gas fields. Critics, including opposition lawmakers, complained it was skewed in favor of the companies.
“This is a joyous day,” he said.


Cirque du Soleil walks a tightrope through pandemic

Updated 06 June 2020

Cirque du Soleil walks a tightrope through pandemic

  • Suitors wage backstage battle to rescue debt-stricken Canadian circus icon
  • Among the potential bidders is former fire eater Guy Laliberte, who fouded the acrobatic troupe in 1984

MONTREAL: Its shows canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an already heavily indebted Cirque du Soleil’s fight for survival has invited an intense backstage battle to try to save the Canadian cultural icon.

High on a list of potential suitors is former fire eater Guy Laliberte, who founded the acrobatic troupe in 1984 but later sold it.

“Its revival will have to be done at the right price. And not at all costs,” said the 60-year-old, determined not to see his creation sold to private interests.

The billionaire clown said after “careful consideration,” he decided “with a great team” to pursue a bid, but offered no details.

Under his leadership, the Cirque had set up big tops in more than 300 cities around the world, delighting audiences with contemporary circus acts set to music but without the usual trappings of lions, elephants and bears.

Then the pandemic hit, forcing the company in March to cancel 44 shows worldwide, from Las Vegas to Tel Aviv, Moscow to Melbourne, and lay off 4,679 acrobats and technicians, or 95 percent of its workforce.

Hurtling toward bankruptcy, the global entertainment giant and pride of Canada commissioned a bank in early May to examine its options, including a possible sale.

Meanwhile, shareholders ponied up $50 million in bridge financing for its “short-term liquidity needs.”

Laliberte, the first clown to rocket to the International Space Station in 2009, ceded control of the Cirque for $1 billion in 2015.

It has since fallen into the hands of American investment firm TPG Capital (55 percent stake) and China’s Fosun (25 percent), which also owns Club Med and Thomas Cook travel. The Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec (CDPQ) retains the last 20 percent.

The institutional investor, which manages public pension plans and insurance programs in Quebec, bought Laliberte’s last remaining 10 percent stake in the business in February, just before the pandemic.

Since 2015, the Cirque has embarked on costly acquisitions and renovations of permanent performance halls, while its creative spirit waned, according to critics in the Quebec press.

Meanwhile, it piled on more than $1 billion in debt.

Fearing that the Cirque would be “sold to foreign interests,” the Quebec government recently offered it a conditional loan of $200 million to help relaunch its shows as restrictions on large gatherings start to be eased worldwide.

But the agreement in principle is conditional on the Cirque headquarters remaining in Montreal and the province being allowed to buy US and Chinese stakes in the company at an unspecified time in the future, “at market value” and with “probably a local partner,” said Quebec Minister of the Economy Pierre Fitzgibbon.

“The state does not want to operate the circus, but the circus is too important to Quebec (to leave it to foreigners),” he said.

In addition to Laliberte, other prospective buyers include Quebecor, the telecoms and media giant of tycoon Pierre Karl Peladeau, whose opening lowball bid was outright rejected.

“It is essentially the value and reputation of the brand” that has piqued interest in the company, says Michel Magnan, corporate governance chair at Concordia University in Montreal.

But “as long as there are restrictions on gatherings of people, the future is not very rosy” for the Cirque, he said.

Several challenges await, according to Magnan.

“There were a lot of people working in all of these shows. Where are they now? What are they doing? How are they doing? In what shape are they, what state of mind?” he said.

“The more time passes, the more this expertise risks evaporating.”

Small consolation: The Cirque resumed its performances on Wednesday in Hangzhou, China, five months after a coronavirus outbreak in the city.