Congo state oil company names new head amid debt-relief plans

By Elie Smith on 3/1/2018
NAIROBI (Bloomberg) -- Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso appointed a new head of the state oil company as it struggles to pay creditors.

Maixent Raoul Ominga will take over as general manager of Societe National des Petroles du Congo with immediate effect, Communications Minister Thierry Moungalla said by phone Wednesday from the capital, Brazzaville. He replaces Jerome Koko, who is expected to become director of Congo’s Treasury following the departure of Albert Ngondo eight months ago, Moungalla said.

Congo Republic owes creditors $9.14 billion, equivalent to about 110% of gross domestic product, according to the International Monetary Fund, which is considering a bailout. Debt has more than tripled since 2010 because of a series of SNPC oil pre-financing deals that have been used by people who are close to or part of Sassou Nguesso’s family as vehicles for corruption, according to advocacy group Global Witness.

Oil pre-financing deals involve loans that are paid back in crude instead of cash. The fuel accounts for three-quarters of output in Congo’s $7.8 billion economy, which has contracted for the past two years after a slump in prices, according to IMF data.

Clencore, Trafigura

SNPC is set to hold debt-relief talks with trading houses after borrowing $2 billion from companies including Glencore and Trafigura Beheer BV, Reuters reported last month.

Ominga is a lawmaker for the ruling Congolese Workers Party in the Oyo 2 constituency, near where Sassou Nguesso was born. He’s also a friend of the president’s son, Denis-Christel Sassou Nguesso.

Ominga previously held the post of deputy general manager in charge of finance and accounting at SNPC.

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