News Snippets

September 7, 2015, 8:44am

PetroRio confirms departure

RE-BRANDED Brazilian oil company PetroRio previously known as HRT, has confirmed that it has packed its bags and shut its offices in Namibia and three other countries.
PetroRio's press agent Monique Melo told The Namibian last week that they have closed shop but still hope to be minority shareholders in Namibian oil blocks.
Troubled HRT was renamed PetroRio this year. It is co-owned by exploration businessman Knowledge Katti and has links with well-known Windhoek lawyer Elias Shikongo, who has served as a director since 2012.
“The company underwent a restructuring process, which led to the closing of offices in Hous­ton (USA), Manaus (Brazil), Toronto (Canada) and Windhoek (Namibia). This change was necessary due to the challenging situation facing the oil and gas market,” Melo said.
HRT was the second largest Namibian exploration licence holder with 10 oil blocks off the Namibian coast and roped in prominent politicians and businesspeople in its deals but it could not discover commercial oil after three failed drills.
Melo said the company is having negotiations to renew four of its petroleum licences which cover 10 oil blocks.
“The company intends to remain a minority shareholder of the PELs (petroleum exploration licences) and, therefore, offers its accumulated expertise in seismic studies as its asset. At the appropriate time, the information will undergo new processing,” Melo said.
A ministerial source insisted that PetroRio will find it difficult to get those 10 oil concessions back because they will have to restart the process of acquiring the blocks.
PetroRio however insisted that they are committed to Namibia in view of its “enormous potential for oil discovery”.
Melo said PetroRio has always believed in Namibia, which the market considers to be a new frontier in the oil industry.
“The company reaffirms its commitment to Namibia in view of its enormous potential for oil discovery,” Melo said.
“For this reason, it invested US$1,2 billion in drilling, seismic and infrastructure activities. The company is banking on the potential of the blocks and established a large geological database, which is certainly an attraction for investors and strategic partners,” she added.
The departure of PetroRio from Namibia does not only affect the people who lost their jobs but it poked holes in the pockets of shareholders who invested in the firm on various stock exchanges.
Investors bought into the perception that Namibia had oil off its coast because it had similar geological features like in Brazil where vast volumes of petroleum were discovered.
HRT raised US$1,5 billion on the first day of trading on the Brazilian stock exchange in 2010, partly using oil blocks in Namibia, and went on to lose all that money within the next four years.
Hopes of finding oil in Namibia were, however, dashed after HRT had drilled three wells between 2012 and 2013, which failed to yield any commercially viable oil.
This came after short-lived joy when Katti went public with news of oil discovery at a function attended by then Prime Minister Hage Geingob and many senior government ministers at State House in 2013.
The speculation enriched the initial owners who jumped ship later.
The demise of HRT was not only about the failed attempts to find oil but was also about infightings of executives at the multinational company.
Brazilian stock exchange website, Capital Aberto revealed that some HRT board members in Brazil awarded themselves handsome bonuses when they resigned from the company. According to the report, two directors who left their positions, pocketed around US$9,4 million (over N$90 million) each.
Despite the troubles, PetroRio plans to rejuvenate its oil interests in Brazil. News outlet Reuters reported last month that Brazil's National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels named PetroRio as one of 12 companies approved to participate in an upcoming auction of oil and natural gas exploration areas next month.
By Shinovene Immanuel

Budget airline plans new Nam flights

LOW-COST airline Flyafrica and its Namibian partner, Nomad Aviation, are not planning to beat a retreat in the wake of the court interdict through which Air Namibia stopped Flyafrica's new flights between Johannesburg and Windhoek on Friday.
Flyafrica has halted its flights between OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and Hosea Kutako International Airport, but plans to introduce passenger flights between Windhoek and Johannesburg's Lanseria International Airport instead, Nomad Aviation's managing director, Clifford Strydom, told The Namibian yesterday.
Strydom said Flyafrica would reorganise its current flight schedule so that it can start flying between Hosea Kutako International Airport and Lanseria three times a week. Those flights could begin by the end of this week or by next week, he said.
In the meantime, passengers who have booked flights between Windhoek and Johannesburg with Flyafrica would be booked on an alternative carrier, British Airways, until Flyafrica can resume its flights to and from Namibia, Strydom said.
He added that the airline would also be introducing low-cost flights between Windhoek and Cape Town as soon as by mid-October.
Flyafrica's first flight from Johannesburg to Namibia landed at Hosea Kutako International Airport east of Windhoek on Wednesday last week.
However, the airline's new flights were brought to an abrupt halt on Friday, when Air Namibia obtained an urgent interdict against Nomad Aviation to stop Flyafrica's flights between Windhoek and OR Tambo International Airport.
In the court order that Judge Shafimana Ueitele issued after hearing arguments in the Windhoek High Court, Nomad Aviation is prohibited from transporting passengers by air between Windhoek and OR Tambo International Airport pending the final determination of the legal action that Air Namibia launched against Nomad Aviation, the Transportation Commission of Namibia, and the chairperson of the commission last week.
Nomad Aviation holds the air services licence on which Flyafrica started to operate budget flights between Windhoek and Johannesburg last week.
Having secured an interdict effectively clipping Flyafrica's wings on the route between Hosea Kutako International Airport and OR Tambo International Airport, Air Namibia is still asking the court to declare that Nomad Aviation does not have a valid licence that would allow it to operate passenger flights between Namibia and South Africa. That part of the case that the national airline lodged against its new low-cost rival is due to be heard and decided later.
In affidavits filed at the court, Air Namibia is alleging that Nomad Aviation does not have the required licence to transport passengers on international routes.
Nomad Aviation's stance is that it indeed has the licence as required, and that its licence also permits flights between Windhoek and OR Tambo International Airport.
With Nomad Aviation and Air Namibia engaged in a drawn-out dispute about plans to introduce budget flights between Namibia and South Africa, Nomad Aviation asked the Transportation Commission near the end of May to investigate its licence and give a ruling on the question whether it was permitted to transport passengers between Hosea Kutako International Airport and OR Tambo and Cape Town International Airport.
When the company requested that ruling, its lawyer indicated that it would abide by the commission's decision, Judge Ueitele noted when he announced his decision in the case on Friday.
The Transportation Commission ruled on 4 August that Nomad Aviation's air services licence allows it to transport passengers between Hosea Kutako International Airport and Lanseria International Airport north-west of Johannesburg, and between Hosea Kutako and Cape Town International Airport, but not between Windhoek and OR Tambo International Airport.
Air Namibia and Nomad Aviation both do not agree with that ruling, but for different reasons, the two companies have indicated to the court.
Senior counsel Theo Frank and Ramon Maasdorp, instructed by Philip Ellis, represented Air Namibia in court on Friday. Nomad Aviation was represented by Philip Swanepoel.
By Werner Menges
Courtsey the Namibian