May 27, 2022

Bahrain to hire advisers for privatisation of state oil firms


Zainab Mansoor

Bahrain is in the process of hiring advisers to help sell stakes in some of its oil and gas assets as the Gulf’s smallest economy looks to open up an industry closed to foreign investments for decades.

Nogaholding, which owns Bahrain’s oil and gas assets, is due to appoint a consultant and a financial adviser to work on a national energy strategy, its chief executive officer Mark Thomas in an interview. “Everything is on the table for us,” and the company could look at selling stakes to private investors or offering shares to the public, he said.

Bahrain would be following a strategy similar to its larger neighbours Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Saudi Arabia offered a stake in Aramco with an initial public offering in 2019, and then followed it up with selling leasing rights on some of its pipelines to investors – just like Abu Dhabi National Oil Co.

Bahrain’s energy industry isn’t the same scale as other Gulf states. It produces about 200,000 barrels a day compared with about 10 million barrels a day for Saudi Arabia and 2.9 million barrels a day for the UAE. Nogaholding owns Bahrain Petroleum, which is in the process of a $6bn upgrade, and an oil pipeline importing crude from Saudi Arabia.

“We’ll take the next six months to develop the national energy strategy and the operational strategy for Nogaholding, so by the third quarter we’ll have a very clear picture of where we want to go,” Thomas said. “Within that, we’ll have done a deep root financial analysis from which we’ll decide where we might want to monetise.”

Thomas, who was appointed the CEO of Nogaholding in October and was previously head of the CEO’s office at BP, said the company is also continuing to work on assessing a new shale oil discovery Bahrain announced in 2018 – the Khaleej Al Bahrain Basin. The company will be doing more research to help bring in an international partner to develop the field.

“Commercially what we’re looking at is quite a challenging development,” he said. “It may have a lot of oil, but it’s going to be difficult and costly to extract.”

Nogaholding is also in the process of refinancing a $1.6bn loan, which includes some environment, sustainability and governance targets, Thomas said. If the company hits those targets, the interest rate on the loan would be lower, he said, declining to specify.



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