Italy PM signs Algeria gas deals to reduce Russia reliance

Italy PM signs Algeria gas deals to reduce Russia reliance
The firms agreed to boost gas exports through the Transmed undersea pipeline starting this autumn. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 11 April 2022

Italy PM signs Algeria gas deals to reduce Russia reliance

Italy PM signs Algeria gas deals to reduce Russia reliance

ALGIERS: Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi announced a deal on Monday to boost gas deliveries from energy heavyweight Algeria, as he steps up efforts to reduce Rome’s heavy reliance on Russian imports.
Addressing journalists after meeting President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Draghi told journalists the two governments had signed a preliminary deal on energy cooperation.
“There is also a deal between ENI and Sonatrach to boost gas exports to Italy,” he said, referring to the Italian energy giant and Algeria’s state hydrocarbons firm.
The firms agreed to boost gas exports through the Transmed undersea pipeline starting this autumn, gradually “increasing volumes of gas... up to 9 billion cubic meters per year in 2023-24,” ENI said in a statement.
The Ukraine war has sparked a Western push for sanctions against Moscow, including moves to drastically cut purchases of Russian gas.
Italy buys the vast majority of its natural gas from overseas, and is one of the most Russia-reliant gas importers in Europe, with over 40 percent of its imports coming from the country.
But Italy also imports significant amounts from Algeria, including some 6.4 billion cubic meters of Algerian gas during the first quarter of 2021, a 109 percent uptick from the previous year.
The war in Ukraine and the subsequent campaign of Western sanctions have prompted Rome to step up the search for alternative sources, with gas giant Algeria an obvious option.
“Immediately after the invasion of Ukraine I announced that Italy would organize quickly to reduce its dependence on Russian gas,” Draghi said.
“The deals today are a significant response to reach this strategic goal, and others will follow.”
Draghi arrived in Algeria weeks after Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio made the same trip, during which he confirmed that Italy was “committed to increasing energy supplies, notably in gas,” including from Algeria, which he said had “always been a reliable supplier.”
Algeria’s Sonatrach said at the time that it was prepared to increase deliveries, notably via the Transmed pipeline linking Algeria to Italy.
Its CEO Toufik Hakkar said Europe is the “natural market of choice” for Algerian gas, which accounts for about 11 percent of Europe’s gas imports.
But he said any boost to exports would depend on first satisfying Algeria’s ever-growing domestic needs.
Sonatrach and Italy’s ENI jointly operate the Transmed pipeline, which has a capacity of some 32 billion cubic meters per year.
Aydin Calik, an energy analyst at the Middle East Economic Survey, said Monday’s deal implied additional exports that would push the limits of the Transmed pipeline.
“That’s assuming Algeria actually has the capacity to supply more, given its other commitments,” he told AFP. “There are lots of questions.”
Former Algerian energy minister Abdelmajid Attar previously told AFP that “Algeria exports a maximum of 22 billion cubic meters (per year) via the Transmed pipeline,” leaving some 10 billion in spare capacity.
Attar, also a former CEO of Sonatrach, said that Algeria’s liquefaction facilities, which allow gas to be exported by ship, are “only being used at 50-60 percent of capacity.”
He noted that in the short term, Algeria could boost its gas exports to the EU by at most three billion cubic meters per year, meaning “it can’t make up for a fall in Russian gas supplies on its own.”
However, “within four of five years, Algeria could send bigger quantities” to Italy, he added.
Algeria expects to invest some $40 billion on gas and oil exploration, production and refining between 2022 and 2026.
Draghi did not say how much exports were to be boosted under Monday’s deal.
The two countries have a contract for gas deliveries up until 2027.
Draghi said last week that Italy would “follow the decisions of the European Union” on new sanctions against Russia, including a possible gas embargo.
His visit also follows a spike in tensions between Algeria and Spain, another major gas importer, after Madrid dropped a decades-long policy of neutrality over the Western Sahara and backed an autonomy plan put forward by Algeria’s arch-rival Morocco.
Sonatrach warned earlier this month it could increase the price of its gas sales to Spain, which make up more than 40 percent of the country’s imports.

Egg producers in Turkey scramble to defend price rises amid inflation crisis

Egg producers in Turkey scramble to defend price rises amid inflation crisis
Updated 07 July 2022

Egg producers in Turkey scramble to defend price rises amid inflation crisis

Egg producers in Turkey scramble to defend price rises amid inflation crisis
  • Producers in the country reject allegations of price fixing and profiteering and say they have no choice but to raise prices as imports grow more expensive
  • Anti-trust watchdogs have stepped up investigations of retailers and producers, resulting in some of the country’s largest chain stores facing record fines for alleged price gouging

LONDON: Egg producers in Turkey have found themselves at the center of a growing debate over who is to blame for the country’s inflation crisis, as the government increases the pressure on businesses to keep prices down.

The nation’s anti-trust watchdog has stepped up its investigations and on-site inspections of retailers and producers since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pushed back in September against businesses accused of profiteering. As a result, record fines have been imposed on some of the country’s largest chain stores for alleged price gouging. They deny any wrongdoing and are appealing against the punishments in court.

Meanwhile, the Competition Authority has warned that it expects to impose further fines after another investigation concluded that major retailers were conspiring with suppliers to raise prices. Last month, the watchdog announced it was investigating whether Turkey’s Egg Producers Association and its 29 members had abused market data to fix prices.

Surging food prices in Turkey are a key driver of soaring inflation, which approached an annual rate of 80 percent in June. The cost of food and non-alcoholic beverages last month had almost doubled compared with a year ago.

The country’s egg producers said they have no choice but to raise prices because imports have become more expensive as a result of soaring global inflation and the declining value of the lira. While egg prices have risen dramatically in the past year, they fell by more than 4 percent in June, compared with the previous month, as pressure mounted on the producers.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, Turkey produced approximately 20 billion eggs in 2019 but increases in feed costs meant output was already stagnant even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended global grain markets. Farmers who import hatching eggs and day-old chicks have seen their costs rise as well.

“We have had numerous meetings with the inspectors from ministries before and those officials confirmed our price hikes were based on the changing cost of raw materials,” said Ibrahim Afyon, the head of the Turkish Egg Producers Association.

“Producers have been under stress because of verbal guidance by officials on keeping prices down in an economy where costs are rising rapidly, but we don’t believe we have done anything wrong.”

The government has stepped up the pressure on businesses since the country’s central bank began a round of monetary easing in the fourth quarter of 2021 that pummeled the lira, triggered outflows and fueled inflation.

Erdogan, who holds the unconventional economic view that high interest rates exacerbate inflation, has resisted growing pressure to raise the cost of borrowing, instead blaming rapid price increases on the private sector.

“Not all the price hikes can be explained by costs, demand and the fluctuations in world commodity markets,” Birol Kule, the head of Turkey’s Competition Authority, said last week.

“The lack of competition in some fields has an enhancing effect on inflation; it has a considerable influence on prices in Turkey.”

Zain Group boss is top Kuwait-based CEO on Forbes Middle East list of top executives

Zain Group boss is top Kuwait-based CEO on Forbes Middle East list of top executives
Updated 06 July 2022

Zain Group boss is top Kuwait-based CEO on Forbes Middle East list of top executives

Zain Group boss is top Kuwait-based CEO on Forbes Middle East list of top executives
  • The magazine ranked Bader Nasser Al-Kharafi in 35th place on its list of the top 100 CEOs in the region

LONDON: Forbes Middle East has named Bader Nasser Al-Kharafi, the CEO of Zain Group. as one of the top 100 CEOs in the Middle East for 2022.

He is ranked 35th and leads a number of other Kuwait-based executives on the list, including Sheikha Dana Al-Sabah of the KIPCO Group, Essam Al-Sager of the National Bank of Kuwait, Tareq Al-Sultan of Agility, Elham Mahfouz of the Commercial Bank of Kuwait, Mohammed Al-Osaimi of Boursa Kuwait, and Talal Al-Ajmi of VI Markets.

Al-Kharafi was appointed vice chairman of Zain Group in 2014 and CEO in 2017. He is also the chairman of the board for the executive committee of Boursa Kuwait, a board member of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and a founder of BNK Holding, a privately held shareholding company.

The CEOs ranked on the Forbes list come from 26 countries in the region. Companies in the UAE leads the way with 19 entries, followed by Egypt with 16 and Saudi Arabia with 15.

In 2021, the bosses on the list managed more than $1 trillion in revenues and the combined worth of their companies is more than $5 trillion. The sector with the most CEOs on the list is banking and financial services, with 27, followed by telecoms with eight, and energy and logistics with seven.

“Irrespective of the economic environment, market conditions, and other factors, it is the CEO who bears most of the responsibility for the success or failure of the company they lead,” Forbes Middle East wrote.

“This is becoming more apparent in the Middle East, where corporate governance has been improving for several years. There is now a clear separation between ownership and management in companies throughout the region.

“This trend is particularly strong in government-owned businesses, with even sectors such as defense and utilities now being incorporated and even being listed on stock exchanges. This has made CEOs focus more on long-term benefits that stem from innovation, technology, and ESG (environmental, social and governance) initiatives.”

In 2021, when Forbes Middle East published its first list of the top CEOs in the region, the magazine found that the mood among executives was focused on safety and the protection of business.

“This year has seen a reversal in fortunes, with record profits, new investments, large IPOs (initial public offerings), and mega deals taking center stage,” according to the magazine.

“For example, so far in 2022 Amin H. Nasser has led Saudi Aramco to become the world’s most valuable company by market value again, usurping Apple. Meanwhile, Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber led ADNOC as it took three of its subsidiaries — ADNOC Drilling, Fertiglobe and Borouge — public, with Borouge’s $2 billion IPO becoming Abu Dhabi’s largest-ever IPO.”

The CEOs were ranked based on the effects they have had on the region, their country and the markets that they serve; their overall experience and time spent in their current role; the size of the company in terms of revenues, assets and market cap; their achievements and performance in the past year, and the innovations and initiatives they are responsible for.

To create the rankings, Forbes Middle East sent questionnaires and gathered data from stock market disclosures, industry reports, annual reports and financial statements, among other primary sources.

Egypt In-Focus — PMI sees its biggest slump in 2 years; trade balance deficit falls by 53%

Egypt In-Focus — PMI sees its biggest slump in 2 years; trade balance deficit falls by 53%

Updated 06 July 2022

Egypt In-Focus — PMI sees its biggest slump in 2 years; trade balance deficit falls by 53%

Egypt In-Focus — PMI sees its biggest slump in 2 years; trade balance deficit falls by 53%

CAIRO: Sharply rising prices and currency devaluation have resulted in Egypt’s non-oil private sector’s biggest drop in two years in June. Additionally, the country’s trade balance deficit fell by 53 percent during April. 

Egypt’s non-oil private sector

Egypt’s non-oil private sector has seen its biggest drop in two years during the month of June, in the face of sharply rising prices and a devalued Egyptian pound, according to the S&P Global Purchasing Managers’ Index. 

The North African country’s PMI registered 45.2 in June, down from 47 during the month earlier. 

Trade balance deficit

Egypt’s trade balance deficit fell by 53 percent during April 2022 to reach $1.7 billion compared to April 2021’s $3.62 billion, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics.

According to CAPMAS’ monthly bulletin, the country’s exports rose by 54.2 percent to hit $4.94 billion during April, compared to $3.2 billion in the same period last year. 


Cairo-based real estate developer Sixth of October for Development and Investment Co., or Sodic, has submitted a non-binding offer to acquire up to 100 percent of the share capital of state-owned developer Madinet Nasr Housing & Development.

The transaction could value the company, to be acquired, at $328 million, according to MEED.

This comes in line with Sodic’s strategy to expand its portfolio of mixed-use residential communities in Cairo.

Sodic is majority-owned by a consortium comprising Abu Dhabi-based Aldar and ADQ. 


US targets Iranian oil and petrochemical trade network

US targets Iranian oil and petrochemical trade network
Updated 06 July 2022

US targets Iranian oil and petrochemical trade network

US targets Iranian oil and petrochemical trade network
  • The US Treasury Department said the network used a web of front companies based in the Gulf
  • The US State Department announced it was imposing parallel sanctions on 15 individuals and firms

WASHINGTON: The US Treasury Department said Wednesday that it has sanctioned a group of front companies and individuals tied to the sale and shipment of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products to East Asia.
Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed the sanctions on several companies, including Iran-based Jam Petrochemical Co., which has exported hundreds of millions of dollars worth of products to countries throughout Asia, including China.
The administration uses an August 2018 executive order signed by then-President Donald Trump as its authority to impose the sanctions.
The order addresses “threats posed by Iran, including Iran’s proliferation and development of missiles and other asymmetric and conventional weapons capabilities, its network and campaign of regional aggression,” and other issues.

Brian E. Nelson, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement that “while the United States is committed to achieving an agreement with Iran that seeks a mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, we will continue to use all our authorities to enforce sanctions on the sale of Iranian petroleum and petrochemicals.”
Washington had earlier imposed sanctions on Iranian petrochemical producers in mid-June, as well as on Chinese and Indian brokers, expanding pressure amid a deadlock in negotiations on restoring a 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran is nursing a battered economy, with its currency hitting its lowest value ever, after the US withdrew from the nuclear deal in May 2018.
President Joe Biden’s administration has been working to renew the agreement, which placed curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief, which Iran insists it has never received.
In June, Iran said it is ready for new indirect talks to overcome the last hurdles to revive its tattered 2015 nuclear deal amid a growing crisis over the country’s atomic program.
Treasury also designated UAE-based Iranian nationals Morteza Rajabieslami and Mahdieh Sanchuli for sanctions.
Also on Wednesday, the State Department imposed penalties on five entities and 15 people located in Iran, Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.
“The United States has been sincere and steadfast in pursuing a path of meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“It is Iran that has, to-date, failed to demonstrate a similar commitment to that path.”
He added: “Absent a commitment from Iran to return to the JCPOA, an outcome we continue to pursue, we will keep using our authorities to target Iran’s exports of energy products.”
Wednesday’s announcement came ahead of a highly anticipated visit next week by President Joe Biden to Israel and Saudi Arabia when efforts to contain the nuclear threat from Iran will be top of the agenda.
(With AP and AFP)

Oil drops to 12-week low on recession worries

Oil drops to 12-week low on recession worries
Updated 06 July 2022

Oil drops to 12-week low on recession worries

Oil drops to 12-week low on recession worries

NEW YORK: Oil prices dropped to a 12-week low in volatile trade on Wednesday, extending Tuesday’s heavy losses as growing fears of demand destruction from a global recession outweighed supply concerns.

Brent futures for September delivery fell $2.99, or 2.9 percent, to $99.78 a barrel by 10:57 a.m. EDT (1457 GMT), while US West Texas Intermediate crude fell $3.19, or 3.2 percent, to $96.31.

That puts WTI and Brent on track for their lowest closes since April 11, after Brent fell 9 percent and WTI fell 8 percent on Tuesday.

It also put both benchmarks in technically oversold territory with a relative strength index below 30 for a second day in a row. If Brent closes at that level, it would be the first time it remains in oversold territory for two days since December 2021.

Oil prices were also knocked down by a soaring US dollar , which rose to a near 20-year high against a basket of other currencies.

A stronger US dollar makes oil more expensive for holders of other currencies, which can curb demand.

In China, the world’s biggest oil importer, the market worried that new COVID-19 lockdowns could cut demand.

China’s crude oil imports from Russia, meanwhile, soared 55 percent from a year earlier to a record level in May. Russia displaced Saudi Arabia as the top supplier as refiners cashed in on discounted supplies amid sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

Adding to downward pressure on oil prices, Equinor ASA said all oil and gas fields affected by a strike in Norway’s petroleum sector are expected to be back in full operation within a couple of days.