May 24, 2015 / 1:28 PM / 4 years ago

Algeria's Sonatrach appoints new chief executive

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algeria’s state energy firm Sonatrach has named Amine Mazouzi as its new chief executive to replace interim head Said Sahnoun, who had been appointed less than a year ago, two industry sources said on Sunday.

The sun sets behind the stacks at the gas plant at the state-run Sonatrach gasfileds located 1200 km (750 miles) south-east of Algiers.

Mazouzi, a younger-generation manager in Sonatrach’s production development department, will take the helm as the North African country seeks to draw more foreign oil investment and offset a fall in world crude prices.

A Sonatrach spokesman was not immediately available for confirmation. An official ceremony to appoint Mazouzi is expected later on Sunday, the two industry sources said.

OPEC member Algeria, a key gas supplier for Europe, failed to draw a lot of foreign investor interest in its most recent energy bidding round last year. Oil companies have complained about offer terms and bureaucratic red tape.

But it needs foreign investment to help ramp up stagnating energy production. Oil output has been at around 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in recent years, though Sonatrach said this month it would increase production by at least 32,000 bpd from July by starting production at two fields.

Mazouzi, the son of a well-respected veteran of Algeria’s war of independence against France, is an experienced Sonatrach hand. The state firm has had five chief executives in five years, however, a sign of the turmoil Sonatrach has faced.

The Sonatrach appointment came just days after a new energy minister and finance minister were named in a cabinet reshuffle by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The energy minister, Salah Khebri, is also seen as an experienced technocrat.

Sonatrach operations are the motor of Algeria’s economy. A drop in world oil prices since last summer, however, has prompted some measures to curb spending, including Sonatrach asking service suppliers for a 10-15 percent discount on prices.

In the first four months of the year, energy export revenues fell 41 percent to $13.4 billion because of lower crude prices, according to customs figures provided by state news agency APS.

Sonatrach, which works as a majority partner in joint ventures with foreign firms such as BP and Repsol in Algeria, has also been hit by a series of corruption scandals in recent years.

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