June 21, 2016 / 2:18 PM / 3 years ago

Moroccan court gives oil refiner Samir more time to restart production

RABAT (Reuters) - A Moroccan court has given the country’s only oil refinery, Samir, another six months to restart production, two sources from the company said on Tuesday, giving it more time to attract a buyer during a court-ordered liquidation.

Samir halted production in August due to financial difficulties, then a court ruling placed it in liquidation and named an independent trustee to run it.

The same ruling had given three months to the new managers to restart production in the 200,000 barrel per day complex in an effort to secure a buyer.

Its closure has made the country reliant on imports at a time when the North African kingdom is getting its finances back on track by tackling huge deficits.

Samir, in which Saudi billionaire Mohammed al-Amoudi’s Corral Holdings has a 67.26 percent stake, has been battling creditors ranging from oil traders to banks who are owed millions. The Moroccan government says Samir owes it 13 billion dirhams ($1.33 billion) in taxes and its total debt is hovering around 44 billion dirhams.

The trustee running the company could not restart production in the initial deadline as the refiner had not attracted bids for its tenders to buy crude oil.

Two sources said the trustee has until January 21 to restart production and bring the liquidation process to an end.

“We have not received the crude needed yet but it is on the right track,” said one source, who declined to be named because of the judicial process.

Samir launched a tender in March to buy 8 million barrels of regular Urals or Kirkuk crude oil for delivery from April through June. Company officials said they have been in talks with exporters and trading houses but declined to give details on the talks and if there was any bid.

The government has said it will do everything possible to recover unpaid taxes and protect the refinery’s workers. The company is still paying salaries and social contributions for its 1,200 workers. Another 5,000 workers employed by sub-contractors will lose their jobs if the refiner closes down

At just under 300,000 barrels per day, Morocco’s petroleum consumption is Africa’s fifth largest, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi, editing by Louise Heavens

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