Western Sahara Worldnews
The Daily Trust ng
The al-Qarawiyyin Library has long been a source of fascination for residents in Fez, Morocco, as few of them have ever passed through its doors. Opened in 859, it is thought to be the world’s oldest library, and the maze of rooms were closed off to all but a few scholars and students of the university where it was housed.
“We knew where it was more or less, but could not enter. It was this big, mysterious place,” recalls Aziza Chaouni, a Fez native and the architect who has overseen al-Qarawiyyin’s restoration. “I had no idea what lay behind its gigantic iron doors.”
In 2012, a woman from Morocco’s Ministry of Culture contacted Chaouni for an assessment. When the Toronto-based architect and engineer stepped inside the building, however, she was shocked to discover it was rotting.
“It was exquisite, but it was in a very bad state,” she recalls. Over the centuries, rain water poured off the roof of the neighboring mosque and infiltrated the library. After excavating, Chaouni discovered what she described as a river running underneath the floors. To rescue the structure from further damage, she built an underground canal system to lead the water into the sewer.
“When you have books and water, it’s a horrible recipe,” she says.
Though the structural changes were, she admits, a major undertaking, they pale in comparison to the work she’s done to bring the 9th century complex into the 21st century. Making it modern, and making it open to the public — and not just to researchers — are the cornerstone of Chaouni’s vision for al-Qarawiyyin.
Chaouni added a new lab to treat, preserve and digitize some of the oldest texts, which include a ninth-century Quran, written in Kufic (the oldest form of Arabic calligraphy) on camel skin. State-of-the-art machinery can mend holes in ancient paper rolls, and prevent cracks in ancient scrolls.
“Hopefully, by digitizing, we can make some of these manuscripts available online, and spread the knowledge way beyond Fez and Morocco,” she says. Though the library isn’t yet open to the public, it is expected to be in 2017.
In a way, the library’s interior had an added allure for Chaouni, who grew up hearing family stories about her great grandfather, who to Fez from his village on a donkey to study at the illustrious university, and who spent many hours studying in the reading room at al-Qarawiyyin Library. What she hadn’t anticipated was the many secret nooks that lay behind boarded up walls and doors.
“We were always discovering things as we were ripping out walls,” she says. One standout discovery for her was a hidden room that had a 12th century cupola made with intricate lattice wood.
“It was this extremely refined and unusual type of roof that was hidden away,” she recalls. “It’s typical of the element of surprise you fine in Fez. You’ll have these narrow streets and find a small door that enters into an amazing courtyard.”
Chaouni is the latest is a line of women that have shaped the library’s history. The library was founded by Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy Tunisian merchant (she also founded the Qarawiyyin Mosque and Qarawiyyin University).
Chaouni also believes that her own role in restoring the library was made possible by the fact it was a woman at the Ministry of Culture that reached out to her.
“I was lucky that it was a lady from the Ministry who heard of me. If it was a man, he probably would have hired another man, one of his friends.”
She is quick to point out that though her gender presented challenges, they weren’t unique to Morocco.
“As a woman in Toronto, I still have to work twice as hard in a technical field to make myself heard. Sure, this gender-thing exists in Morocco, but it’s still changed immensely from when I was a young girl and the time of my mother.”
In the end, though, it was worth it to Chaouni to bring the library back to its former glory, and to make it accessible to the public for the first time.
“It’s probably the thing I’m most proud of,” she says. “The heritage needs to live. It can’t be thought of as this mummy we need to preserve.”
Read more at http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/feature/the-world-s-oldest-library-gets-a-21st-century-face-lift/181901.html#t2SLHIHMdakQHxXc.99
The Ghana Stock Exchange has initiated moves to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Casablanca Stock Exchange to ensure traders on both exchange get access to each other’s market.
The MoU will also allow the sharing of information and communication and the exchange of updates on rules and regulations between the two markets.
Under the MoU, brokers in both countries would be taken through professional training programmes to deepen their professional development.
The Managing Director of the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE), Mr Kofi Yamoah, speaking to the media after receiving a delegation from the Casablanca Stock Exchange, said he was convinced the move would help both exchanges to develop better.
He said the signing of the MoU would also allow companies in Ghana to list on the Casablanca Stock Exchange and vice versa.
The Kingdom of Morocco has sent a large delegation to Ghana for bilateral trade talks and Mr Yamoah said the GSE would, therefore, seize the opportunity to sign the MoU which had been under discussion for months.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Casablanca Stock Exchange (CSE), Mr Karim Hajji, said the MoU was necessary because the CSE wanted to ensure a seamless transaction between the two countries.
“We want to provide the opportunity to share experiences between the two markets,” he stated.
“The CSE is already partners in the African Securities Exchange Association and also part of the West African Capital Integration Council as an associate member. The goal of these partnerships is to deepen the collaboration between Morocco and other African countries,” he added.
The West African Capital Markets Integration Council (WACMIC) is in the process of creating the second-largest exchange in Africa after the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).
WACMIC is made up stock exchanges from Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde, Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo and Cote d’ Ivoire, with Morocco joining as an associate member.
The council intends to set up a common platform for cross-border listing and trading in West Africa to create broader and deeper liquidity across the region.
Mr Yamoah said the regulators and the exchanges have met and are ready to roll out the plan.
“The start of this will, however, depend on what each issuer will have to compromise. We have met as far as the exchanges are concerned and the association of regulators has also met and it is now left with the dealers to decide,” he stated.
By: Yaba Yara
The long standing mutual cooperation between the Tijajiyya Musllim Council of Ghana and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco was reenergised on Tuesday. This was made possible when the Spiritual Leader of the council led delegation to pay a courtesy call on the ambassador.
Sheikh Abul- Faidi Abdulai Ahmad Maikano expresses his gratitude to the ambassador for having time out of his busy schedule to interact with his delegation.
He praised the long standing relationship existing between the two entities. It is the prayer of Sheikh Khalifa that the coming of the new ambassador will add more value to the benefit of Islam and Tijaniya. On his part Ambassador His Excellency Mr Hamid Chabar. Deputy Head of mission.
Mr Rachid Ismaili and his counsellor of Forgein Affairs commended the great work the Council is doing for Islam and Tariqa Tijaniya and promised to work hand in hand in complimenting her effort. In another development the Tijaniyya Muslim Council of Ghana delegation under the leadership of his eminence Sheikh Khalifa was at the Iran embassy in Accra to console the family, government and the good people of Islamic Republic of Iran.
The sipirtual Leader gave a short history of the deceased in which he mentioned Former President Hashmi Rafsanjani as an out spoken personality and a man of substance whose outstanding contribution to Iran cannot be measured. He prayed for the departed soul of the great leader and later signed the book of condolence. Ambassador Mr Nosratollah Maleki made mentioned of some facilities and projects they have in the country including the Iran clinic, Islamic University among others.
He assured the council of his support to strengthen the mutual relationship.
By: Yaba Yara
The rising star of Morocco’s renewable energy market.
When it comes to clean energy projects in developing countries, Morocco stands out big time with a bold target of sourcing more than half of its electrical energy from renewable sources by 2030 and a firm plan to have 2,000 MW of wind and 2,000 MW of solar power plants by 2020.
The North African kingdom, which hosted in Marrakesh COP 22, the 2016 UN climate change conference, already has а pretty detailed plan as to how it will transform the country’s energy mix.
In February 2016, Morocco was all over the news with the official launch of the 160-MW first phase of its giant 580 MW Noor solar project near the trading city of Ouarzazate.
The Noor I plant has covered 480 hectares of land with 500,000 thermosolar cylindrical parabolic troughs. These twelve-metre-high, crescent-shaped solar mirrors are coupled with three hours of energy storage capability and their annual output of about 500 GWh of solar power is estimated to supply the needs of over 500,000 local households.
Moroccan media valued the overall investment for this first phase at between MAD 6.3 billion (USD 652m/EUR 577m) and MAD 8 billion (USD 826m/EUR 734m), while the contracted power purchase price is MAD 1.6 (USD 0.159/EUR 0.150) per kWh.
The EUR-810-million second phase Noor II will also use thermosolar cylindrical parabolic troughs which will spread over an area of 680 hectares. The plant will have a nameplate capacity of 200 MW, coupled with seven hours of energy storage capability. It will sell its electricity output at MAD 1.36 per kWh.
The third phase — Noor III, will spread on an area of 750 hectares. It will have an installed capacity of 150 MW but it will employ a different CSP technology — a central tower with salt receivers, plus seven to eight hours of energy storage capability. This installation will sell power at MAD 1.42 per kWh while construction costs have been estimated at EUR 645 million.
The last phase of the complex — Noor IV, will be developed on a surface of 210 hectares with photovoltaic (PV) technology. It will have a capacity of 70 MW.
A consortium led by Saudi Arabia power and water project developer ACWA Power has been selected to develop all four phases of the project.
The launch of construction works for the second and third phase of the mega project took place immediately after the inauguration of the first. Both phases are expected to start producing electricity in 2018.
The contract for the 70-MW fourth phase was awarded to ACWA Power in November 2016, along with the contracts for 100 MW of two other PV projects. ACWA Power submitted the lowest tariff price for the project at MAD 0.46/kWh or USD 0.048/kWh. The company then said it plans to start construction in the first quarter of 2017 and complete the work within 12 months.
When fully completed, the Noor Ouarzazate complex will be the world’s largest multi-technology solar power plant with 580 MW of nameplate capacity and an overall investment of more than MAD 24 billion.
But it is the project’s funding model has been singled out as one of Morocco’s key achievements.
The Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (Masen) was able to use funds borrowed by the government from multilateral agencies and banks and then lend the money on to the project company. Masen had the lead role of organising the invitations to tender for the plants at each of the five sites. It also acted as a consolidator of concessional loans provided by the Clean Technology Fund, African Development Bank, the World Bank, and the European Investment Bank (EIB), thus reducing the cost of capital for developers, and lowering the overall cost of energy generated. The Noor Ouarzazate funding and development model could work as a template for future renewable projects.
The Noor solar power programme of the kingdom kicked off in 2010 with projects to be sited near five major cities: Ouarzazate, Laayoune, Boujdour, Midelt and Tata.
After a restructuring last year, Masen has officially taken the lead for the development of all renewable energy technologies. Over a transitional period of five years Moroccan electricity and water utility company ONEE will gradually transfer to Masen all properties, including real estate, as well as contracts and employees related to renewable energy generation.
Meanwhile, ONEE is implementing its own solar power programme for 500 MW by 2020, including three large projects – the 120 MW Noor-Tafilalet, the 200 MW Noor-Atlas and the 100 MW Noor Argana.
The Noor Tafilalt (or Noor Tafilalet as the tender is also known) was announced in July 2015, initially with a capacity of 75 MWp. ONEE later decided to raise the overall capacity to 120 MWp, comprising three PV power plant projects, each with a nameplate capacity of 40 MWp, to be build in Arfoud, Missour and Zagora in the southeastern part of the country.
In November 2016, the utility named 11 pre-qualified bidders – five companies and six consortia, including Greek Aktor SA; Chinese-South Korea partnership Chint/ KT Corporation; another Chinese consortium CNTIC/Yingly; a consortium of Portuguese Efacec and Moroccan Energy Transfo; a consortium including US First Solar, Italian Belectric and Moroccan Cegelec; a consortium of Spanish Inabensa, its Moroccan unit Inabensa Maroc and Endesa Ingeneria; Chinese Sepco III; a consortium of Swiss based Sunpower Systems Sarl and Moroccan Temasol; Italian Ternienergia Spa; and a consortium of Spanish TSK and French Gensun.
The projects will be built under turnkey contracts with an additional contract for operation and maintenance over five years. Commissioning is scheduled for 2018.
Financing will be provided by the World Bank. The latter has previously said it will extend a USD-125-million loan to ONEE, through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and another USD-23.95-million loan through the Clean Technology Fund.
Pre-qualification tenders for two other PV power plants of 200 MW each — Noor Atlas and Noor Argana, should be launched over the course of the current year.
According to the initially announced design, Noor-Atlas will comprise eight photovoltaic (PV) plants of 10 MW to 30 MW each. Three of the PV plants will be sited near Tata, Tahla (Bouizakarne) and Tan Tan, in the southern part of the country, and five solar farms will be located to the east at Outat El Haj, Ain Beni Mathar, Boudnib, Bouanane and Boulmane (Enjil).
The overall investment for Noor-Atlas is estimated at EUR 300 million, which will be partially financed through German KfW and the EIB, as well as by a contribution from the European Commission.
Noor Argana’s capacity will range from 200 MW to 225 MW, including areas around Tensift, Errhamna, Chichaoua and Boumalne in western Morocco, according to information by Moroccan daily Le Matin, published in July 2016.
The daily then said ONEE was negotiating with three European financing institutions to help foot the bill for the project whose price tag now stands at EUR 350 million. These are German government-owned development bank KfW, the EIB and France’s Agence francaise de developpement (AFD).
Noor Laayoune and Noor Boujdour
In November 2016, MASEN awarded a 20-year build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) agreement to ACWA Power for an 80-MW PV project Laayoune, and another 20-MW PV project in Boujdour.
The projects in Boujdour and Laayoune will use polycrystalline solar panels mounted on a single-axis tracking system. Financing for both of them will come from a green bond issue that Masen announced in the autumn.
At the COP22 meeting in November, Masen also said it would open the bidding for two 400 MW combined PV and CSP plants in early 2017.
The agency has already launched a call for expression of interest for the development of 400 MW at the Noor Midelt solar power complex in July 2016. The shortlisted candidates should be announced in the first half of 2017.
By design, about 3,000 hectares, some 25 kilometres to the northeast of Midelt, have been zoned for the installation of PV or CSP plants. The installed CSP capacity will range between 150 and 190 MW per power plant with a minimum of 5 hours storage capacity, according to the pre-qualification documents.
Since Morocco has raised its renewable energy target from 42% by 2020 to 52% by 2030, Masen has started talks to arrange financing for the development of 800 MW solar power in the Noor Midelt and 800 MW more at another complex called Noor Tata.
In terms of wind power development, Morocco enjoys quite favourable wind resource patterns, both in the northern part of the country near Tanger and to the west where certain regions benefit from regular trade winds.
For example, the 300-MW Tarfaya wind farm, developed by Tarec (Trarfaya Energy Company), a 50/50 joint venture of Nareva Holding and International Power Ltd of Engie Group, enjoys a load factor of 45%, one of the best in the world for onshore wind.
In 2010, the kingdom launched the development of 1,000 MW of wind power in two phases. The first phase — a 150 MW wind farm in Taza was awarded to a consortium of French EDF Energies Nouvelle and Japanese Mitsui in 2012. It is slated for completion this year.
Last year, Morocco awarded the second, 850-MW phase via a tender to Italy’s Enel Green Power SpA (BIT:EGPW), in consortium with Moroccan Nareva Holding and Siemens Wind Power AS. The consortium will build five projects — the 150 MW Tanger 2 in the northern part of the country, 300 MW at Tiskrad, Laayoune, 200 MW at Jbel Lahdid, Essaouira, 100 MW near Boujdour, and 100 MW at Midelt, some 400 km east of Casablanca.
The tender hаs attracted bids of about MAD 300 (USD 30/EUR 28) per MWh on average.
All wind farms will be developed under public private partnership and structured under the build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) scheme. Commissioning of the tender projects is expected between 2017 and 2020.
Wind power could be a major contributor in the electricity sector of Morocco. According to data presented by minister Amara in Madrid in 2015, the country’s onshore potential is estimated at 25 GW, of which 6 GW could be installed by 2030. The average wind speed is 5.3 metres per second (m/s) at more than 90% of the country’s territory, according to the wind atlas, developed by the Moroccan Renewable Energy Development Center (CDER). The Tanger and Tetouan region (North of Morocco) measured particularly high at 8 to 11 m/s, and 7 to 8.5 m/s were recorded for Dakhla, Tarfaya, Taza and Essaouira.
The wind sector has also attracted most of the private initiative for renewable energy development in Morocco under the 13/09 law that allows private producers to sell electricity directly to clients connected to the high voltage and medium voltage grid, mainly industrial companies.
According to data from Morocco’s energy ministry, a total of 220 MW of private wind energy projects have been built until the end of 2016.
Another 120 MW are to go online soon at the Khalladi wind farm in the vicinity of Tangiers, northern Morocco. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Banque Marocaine du Commerce Exterieur (BMCE) have announced they will provide a financing package of EUR 126 million (USD 133.3m) for the development of the project.
Khalladi will be the EBRD’s and BMCE’s first renewable project relying on commercial offtake agreements and not on any state support.
In July 2016, developer ACWA Power Khalladi has confirmed final orders to suppliers and contractors. and Denmark’s Vestas Wind Systems A/S (CPH:VWS) confirmed in August it signed a firm and unconditional order to supply 40 units of its V90-3.0 MW wind turbines for the project.
At the close of 2016, Moroccan energy group Nareva, a subsidiary of the royal holding company Société Nationale d’Investissement (SNI), announced it is starting work on a EUR-400-million wind farm, its fifth as an independent power producer (IPP).
The 201.6 MW project named Aftissat is located south of Boujdour, a town near Western Sahara where trade winds are strong. It is being developed by Energie Eolien du Maroc (EEM), a company in which Nareva holds 75% and the remaining 25% are owned by Moroccan pension fund Caisse Interprofessionnelle Marocaine de Retraites (CIMR).
The cost of development has been estimated at MAD 4 billion, approximately EUR 370 million, which will be financed with own funds and with a loan provided by Moroccan banks Attijariwafa bank and Banque Centrale Populaire (BCP).
A 400-kV high-voltage power line will be built to connect the future wind farm to the national grid at Laayoune.
Commissioning is planned for December 2018.
Published Jan 21, 2017 18:56 CEST
Share this story
By Sharon McDonnell and Maureen O’Hare, CNN
A number of Morocco’s riads (traditional courtyard houses) have been transformed into incredible boutique hotels in recent years, giving travelers a cultural and luxurious experience that was once off-limits.
A classic riad is built around a central courtyard with a garden and fountain.
The interior often features lavish ornamentation — glazed ceramic tiles (zellij) in colorful geometric patterns on walls and floors, carved pierced white stucco work, painted wooden ceilings (zouakt) and shiny polished plaster walls (tadelakt).
“There is extraordinary diversity among Marrakech riads, whose aesthetics range from the ornate flourishes of traditional Moroccan style to ultra-modern interiors that wouldn’t look out of place in a New York City loft,” says Cyrus Bozorgmehr, a Briton who manages several riads in Marrakech.
“With owners living as far afield as Italy, Tahiti and the United States, each brings their own vision — so each riad has a unique identity, infused with the personality and history of the person behind it and their relationship with Morocco,” adds Bozorgmehr.
El Fenn: A respite from the hectic outside world.
El Fenn, or “home of art,” was opened in 2004 by Vanessa Branson, sister of British entrepreneur Richard Branson.
As is fitting for a hotel owned by the founder of the Marrakech Biennale, it’s both a high-end hotel and a museum of contemporary art.
Says General Manager Willem Smit, “She’s a collector and used to have a gallery in London, so it’s very much about art. It connects all the things that we are about and that makes us stand out, I think.”
Behind an unassuming door in the Marrakech medina lies a 22-room property dotted with three inner courtyards.
After the frenetic world of the medina outside, Smit says, you’re greeted with “quietness and the birds chirping and singing, and then all these colors.”
“I remember the first time walking in here that it was one big surprise. And after every corner there was something to see and a whole new experience.”
El Fenn; Derb Moulay Abdullah Ben Hezzian, 2, Marrakech 40000, Morocco; +212 5244-41210; from $213
Riad de Tarabel
A few streets away from El Fenn is the Riad de Tarabel, an elegant oasis in a French colonial-style mansion.
It’s owned by French aristocratic couple Leonard Degoy and Rose Marie Fournier.
The mansion is decorated in muted shades of olive and cream and dotted with family heirlooms and bamboo and rattan furniture.
There are just 10 rooms, including three suites, along with a heated courtyard pool and a rooftop plunge pool.
Riad de Tarabel; 8, Derb Sraghna, Quartier Dar El Bacha, Marrakech Medina, Morocco; +212 (0)5 24 39 17 06; from $203
Royal Mansour Marrakech
Le Jardin is the newest addition to the Royal Mansour property.
When the King of Morocco decided to open the Royal Mansour Marrakech hotel in 2010 as the last word in opulence, he chose to build 53 brand new riads.
Each is a three-story, one- to four-bedroom jewel box, furnished in a riot of ornate zellij, carved stucco and wooden screens, painted wooden ceilings, silks and brocades in spare-no-expense fashion, with a private courtyard and roof terrace with pool and fireplace.
Giving riads the ultimate luxury twist, the recently opened Le Jardin adds 1.5 hectares of landscaped gardens, a swimming pool and a new restaurant from three-Michelin-star Paris chef Yannick Alleno, to add to the three there already.
The new dining spot serves Asian-influenced cuisine, while guests can enjoy Moroccan, gourmet French and Mediterranean food at the others.
There are also a 2,500-square-meter spa with 13 treatment rooms, two hammams, indoor pool, gym and Pilates studio, a library with a telescope for stargazing through a retractable roof and 24-hour room service and private butlers, who travel by underground tunnels for privacy.
Guests receive stationery with their names lettered in gold.
Five-meter-high walls surround the faux medina surrounding the Royal Mansour, a short walk from the Djemaa El Fna, the raucous square alive with snake charmers, magicians, potion, food and drink peddlers and storytellers at night.
CEOs and political leaders have stayed in its biggest riad, the four-bedroom, four-bathroom Riad d’Honneur, which sprawls over 1,800 square meters.
Royal Mansour, Rue Abou Abbas El Sebti, Marrakech; +212 529 80 80 80; from around $1,100
Riad Jaaneman: Marble bathrooms and art deco furnishings.
Opened in 2014, Riad Jaaneman juxtaposes Italian contemporary style, art deco furnishings, marble bathrooms, iPod docks and Boffi bathroom fixtures with Moroccan-patterned headboards and tadelakt walls.
In the five-suite riad’s Partenope suite, green marble from South America, track lighting and ebony tadelakt walls adorn the bathroom.
Dark brown Emperador marble from Spain and tobacco-colored tadelakt walls decorate the bathroom in another suite; the bedroom is decorated with African artifacts and has two walk-in dressing rooms.
An outdoor pool and hammam (traditional steam bath) are here, and riad staff organize day trips to the Atlas Mountains, skiing, cooking classes and yoga.
Owner Leonardo Giangreco, an Italian-born former investment banker in London, left finance in 2010 to “reinvent myself.”
He bought the riad in 2003 to live in, spent two years restoring it and plans to display part of his contemporary art collection here.
Riad Jaaneman, 12 Derb Sraghna, Dar El Bacha, Marrakech; +212 524 44 13 23; from $187
Riad El Amine
In contrast to Riad Jaaneman, Riad El Amine in Fez boasts traditional Moroccan craftsmanship.
It has two courtyards.
One features zellij-adorned columns flanking an aqua-tiled reflecting pool.
A second with a fountain strewn with rose petals in a nine-pointed star-shaped niche and geometric-patterned ceramic tiles.
One of the 11-room riad’s eight suites features a lavender-curtained four-poster bed with silk purple and gold pillows. Others have colored-glass arched windows.
Its owner, a Moroccan travel agent, purchased two riads in 2004 and had new tile and stucco work handmade to mimic the old.
“It was the restorations of these ancient courtyard houses — mostly by expats — that really saved the ancient poverty-stricken medinas from falling into complete disuse and slums,” says Joel A. Zack, president of Heritage Tours Private Travel in New York, which custom designs tours to Morocco.
“Fifteen years ago, they were very different places. It’s the perfect example of adaptive reuse that saved an entire historic quarter, and helped grow economy and tourism significantly.”
Riad El Amine, 94, 96 Bab Jdid, Bouajjara, Fez, +212 535 74 07 49; from $62
Riad Maison Arabe
Each suite at La Maison Arabe is uniquely furnished.
The city’s first riad hotel was La Maison Arabe, a 26-room riad with a renowned Moroccan cooking school, which opened in 1997.
Marrakech’s first expatriate riad owner is believed to be oil heir J. Paul Getty Jr., who bought a deteriorated riad in the late 1960s and hired Bill Willis, an American interior designer, to decorate it.
The designer’s own Marrakech riad, an ultra-flamboyant Arabian Nights-style fantasy where he entertained guests such as the Rolling Stones and William S. Burroughs, has appeared in “Architectural Digest” and other design magazines.
Willis, who became the designer of choice for jet set Marrakech expats from Yves Saint Laurent to Fiat heiress Marella Agnelli, helped catapult Moroccan interior design to international attention.
“For those who truly want to experience authenticity, the right riad can be an amazing experience,” says Joel Zack of Heritage Tours Private Travel.
“Most do not offer the amenities of a full hotel, but they are gorgeous, each room is different, and they offer a magic and a sense of being in Morocco and its hospitality that is absolutely unbeatable.”
Discover creative Marrakech
Riads have no windows facing the street — all face the courtyard. Entryways are often plain doors on a blank wall in a tiny alley in the medina.
These unremarkable exteriors offer absolutely no clue to the wonders within.
“You see the look of terror on their faces when guests often first arrive at a riad, at a sometimes unmarked door in a dark alley,” says Bozorgmehr.
“They don’t know if they’ll ever find their way back, until they get into their comfort zone. It’s the Islamic way — no ostentation outside the house, you show your wealth inside.”
by Rigzone Staff
African and European focused upstream gas company, Sound Energy, has signed a non-binding heads of agreement for the acquisition of all of Oil & Gas Investment Fund’s (OGIF’s) assets in Eastern Morocco.
As part of the deal, Sound plans to acquire a further 20 percent interest in Tendrara, a 75 percent interest in Meridja and an application for a 75 percent position in the relinquished area close to Tendrara. The consideration for the acquisition will be 272 million new ordinary shares in the company, subject to shareholder approval.
OGIF is a Moroccan fund, owned by six large Moroccan financial institutions: Attijariwafa Bank Group (the largest Moroccan bank), CIMR and CDG Group (the largest Moroccan Pension Funds), Finance Com (Investment Company), Mamda-Mcma and Saham (Insurance Companies).
“Morocco is a fast growing and low risk emerging country with significant hydrocarbon potential,” Mohammed Benslimane, CEO of OGIF’s management company, said.
“This new partnership aligns the interests of OGIF and Morocco’s largest financial institutions with those of Sound Energy. We see huge short term upside potential in the equity of Sound Energy and look forward to what will certainly be a successful future together,” he added.
by Jonathan Saul in London
and Patrick Markey in Algiers
A Norwegian shipping firm on Thursday denied a tanker it manages had violated a European court ruling after Western Sahara’s Polisario movement accused it of illegally transporting an oil cargo through disputed territory it claims.
The Polisario independence movement this week called on the European Union and French authorities to seize a France-bound cargo being transported on the Gibraltar-flagged Key Bay because the tanker had made a port call to Moroccan-controlled Laayoune on Jan. 5.
The Polisario said the tanker’s call to Laayoune had rendered its cargo illegal as it had violated a ruling by the European Court of Justice last month that two trade deals between the EU and Morocco did not cover Western Sahara.
Key Bay’s Norwegian-based manager, Sea Tank Chartering, said it had acted within the guidelines set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for responsible business conduct.
“We consider the activities pursued as lawful under international law,” Sea Tank Chartering said in a statement to Reuters.
“The ruling from the European Court of Justice last month applies to the interpretation of the territorial scope of a treaty between EU and Morocco. The decision does not take a position on the regulatory framework for trade in various forms,” it said.
Mhamed Khadad, Polisario’s secretary for foreign affairs, said on Wednesday that as an “occupying force”, Morocco had no right to issue export licences.
The Moroccan foreign ministry declined to comment, and there has been no response from Brussels. The French foreign ministry could not immediately comment.
According to ship tracking data on Reuters, the 4,570 deadweight tonnes tanker is carrying a cargo of fish oil and is bound for the French port of Fecamp, where it is due to arrive on Friday.
The Polisario previously said on its Sahara Press Service that would file its complaint with the European Commission and French customs.
The vessel’s last reported position was off the coast of Spain at 1545 GMT on Thursday.
Western Sahara, which has significant phosphate reserves and offshore fishing, has been contested since 1975 when Spain, the former colonial power, withdrew. Morocco fought a 16-year war with Polisario, which established a self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.
Responding to an escalation in tension, U.N. peacekeeping observers have been deployed since August between Moroccan Royal Gendarmerie personnel and a unit of Polisario fighters facing off in a narrow strip of buffer zone between the two sides.
(Reporting by Jonathan Saul in London and Patrick Markey in Algiers; Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)
Cement consumption has fallen by year-on-year 0.7% to 14.1Mt in 2016 from 14.3Mt in 2015. Data from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Policy shows that particular falls in consumption of nearly 10% were recorded in the Béni Mellal – Khénifra and Drâa – Tafilalet regions.
However, the country’s Dakhla – Oued Ed-Dahab region in the south-west reported a 64.3% rise in sales to 63,771t.
Signing Of Japanese ODA Loan Agreement With Morocco: Utilizing Japanese Shipbuilding Technology In The Construction Of A Research Vessel
Hellinic Shipping News
On January 16, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) signed a loan agreement with L’Institut National de Recherche Halieutique (the National Institute of Fisheries Research) in Rabat to provide a Japanese ODA loan of up to 5.371 billion yen for the Oceanographic and Fishery Research Vessel Construction Project.
Morocco has outstanding fishing grounds on the Atlantic Ocean and the fisheries industry is important to Morocco as a means for acquiring foreign currency and creating employment. The fisheries sector, which exports octopus, squid, and tuna to Japan, accounts for approximately five percent of the total amount of exports from Morocco. Since 2000, however, the marine ecosystem has become unstable due to climate change, marine pollution and other factors, resulting in unstable catch volumes and otherwise affecting the lives of people working in fisheries-related jobs.
Given these circumstances, the Government of Morocco has set resource management as a key policy with the aim of the sustainable development of fisheries industry. Toward that aim, improving the oceanographic and fisheries research capacity is a priority for the Government of Morocco.
The research vessels currently used for fisheries resource research comes from Japanese Grant provided in the past. Despite careful maintenance and management over more than two decades, a new research vessel is now desired.
In order that deep-sea products with high market value can be sustainably developed, the research capacity must be advanced, such as by building a resource assessment system based on the ecosystem, which includes the marine environment and relationships between species.
This project will construct an oceanographic and fishery research vessel capable of carrying out advanced research, thereby strengthening the scientific capability within resource management in Morocco and advancing the sustainable development of the fisheries industry. The loan will be allocated to the procurement of the research vessel, training for vessel navigation, and consulting services (including bidding assistance, overall project management and construction supervision).
The Special Terms for Economic Partnership (STEP)* will apply to the project in the agreement that was signed, and it is expected that Japanese shipbuilding technologies will be utilized.
Toward developing the fisheries industry in Morocco, JICA has utilized various types of assistance, including technical cooperation, grant aid, private partnerships and volunteer dispatches. JICA will continue to cooperate in order to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth in Morocco.
* STEP is special assistance terms for promoting the visibility of Japanese aid through a transfer of outstanding Japanese technology and expertise to developing nations. The main contract is Japan tied and subcontracting is general untied. Although the main contract allows a joint venture with the borrowing country, a Japanese company must be the leading partner in such an arrangement.
Algeria may have the right ingredients for a full-blown popular uprising, but the newly healed scars of the last civil war make Algerians think twice about revolting.
Algeria is already reeling from a revolution that took place in 1988, which was followed by a decade of civil war that killed thousands.
Algeria has been a rare phenomenon in that it was immune to the Arab Spring. Despite sharing similarities with its North African counterparts, Algeria remained relatively stable while a trend of sweeping rebellions toppled governments in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.
Why is it that when Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire out of protest in a suburb of Tunis in December 2010, sparking an explosion of pent up frustration across the Arab world, Algerians on the most part were unaffected?
Is Algeria really an exception in the Arab world, or is it heading towards the same fate as other North African countries?
Too many eggs in one basket
Algeria has an increasingly disgruntled young population that suffers from high unemployment and poverty. In addition, the country is experiencing a major housing crisis, topped off with high consumer prices, low salaries and a widening gap between social classes.
With around 40 million people, Algeria is the second most populous country in North Africa after Egypt. And despite its 1,600 kilometre-long coastline on the Mediterranean, it has not become a popular tourism destination, unlike its neighbours Morocco and and Tunisia.
Gas plants in rural parts of Algeria have face attacks from Al Qaeda militants, a further put off for international investors. [AFP]
Instead, the country depends heavily on natural gas exports for income. In fact, around 60 percent of the state budget comes from oil and gas exports, which account for about 97 percent of all exports from Algeria. The country is currently the third largest gas supplier to Europe after Russia and Norway.
But the dip in international oil and gas prices in recent years has sent the Algerian economy tumbling. Decreasing demand in Europe had already seen gas oil and exports to the continent decline since 2009.
Cash running out
The crisis has forced the government to delve deep into its foreign exchange reserves. “Total reserves have fallen from $194 billion in 2013 to an estimated $108 billion in 2016 and are projected to decline further to $60 billion in 2018,” a World Bank report states.
Algeria’s central bank has warned that if this slide continues, the country’s foreign exchange reserves could diminish. Despite this, Sonatrach, which generates approximately 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, announced it would pump $90 billion into new projects by 2020 to encourage investment.
But heavy regulations and high taxes make the Algerian energy sector an extremely difficult place for investors to make a profit. Laws stipulate that the state-owned energy firm Sonatrach takes at least a 51 percent stake in oil and gas deals with international partners.
The Algerian government then taxes up to 90 percent of revenue made from such deals. Due to bureaucratic hurdles, it can also take up to 17 years for energy firms operating in Algeria to start the production process, around three times longer than the global average. Therefore, two recent energy bidding tenders failed to generate much interest.
A 2016 report on the impact of low oil prices on Algeria said that companies like Sonatrach need to “finance their investments” to return to the international market, but argues that it is “highly debatable that this would be financially feasible for Sonatrach.”
Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the 80-year-old president of Algeria, has been wheelchair-bound and generally out of the public eye since suffering a stroke in 2014. [AFP]
No long-term plan
When the Arab Spring kicked off in 2011, around a quarter of the country’s population was living below the poverty line. Small pockets of protests emerged across the country, but the government was able to extinguish the flames of discontent by increasing civil servant wages by 34 percent.
The government wage bill was also revised to allocate 25 percent of all pay to public workers and food subsidies.
But this was simply a short-term solution to buy time for the government. “The regime has been good at coping with social anger and frustration until now by spending and buying social peace,” Dr. Dalia Ghanem-Yazbeck, an Algerian political analyst at the Carnegie Middle East Center told TRT World.
“If the financial situation will not allow it anymore, repressive measures would be used if needed,” she added.
The country’s 80-year-old president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is now in his fourth term, was diagnosed with stomach cancer during his second term in office. He has hardly been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2014. The wheelchair-bound leader is said to communicate with his ministers via letters as he struggles to speak.
With the next presidential election not scheduled until 2019, there have been calls for early polls, but supporters of Bouteflika have denied rumours that the president is unable to rule. “The president is fine, the country is fine, the party is fine,” the head of the country’s ruling National Liberation Front (FLN), Amar Saadani, said in 2016.
Even if the country goes on to elect a new president, there is currently no clear successor in the race to challenge Bouteflika’s rule. Algerian Energy Minister Chakib Khelil has been tipped as the favourite to replace Bouteflika, but the US-educated technocrat may be disqualified from entering the presidential race due to the constitution barring candidates who have lived abroad for a long time or have married a foreigner.
Chakib Khelil’s (left) return to Algeria from the US while the condition of Abdelaziz Bouteflika remains a mystery has led people to believe that he may be planning to run for president. [Reuters]
Bouteflika himself was brought to power with the support of the DRS, the country’s intelligence agency, which had been led by Gen. Mohamed Mediène since 1990. But in 2015, Mediène was replaced after 25 years of service. The DRS was then disbanded and replaced by a new agency, the DSS, which reports directly to the president.
Later in 2015, Mediène’s deputy Gen. Abdelkader Ait-Ouarabi was arrested and sentenced to five years for destroying official documents. The court did not permit Mediène to testify on his behalf. But Mediène called on the authorities to release Ait-Ouarabi, saying that his deputy was just carrying out his orders.
Furthermore, businessmen previously close to Bouteflika have been distanced, having fallen out of favour for oligarchs closely linked with the president’s brother Said.
This had led many to doubt whether Bouteflika is even in charge. Opposition leader Ali Benflis has alleged that Bouteflika’s ill-health has left a “vacancy of power” which has been seized by “extra-constitutional forces” from the president’s entourage.
Having been in power for 18 years, Bouteflika has largely maintained peace and stability in the country, which is recovering from a crippling civil war that plagued it throughout much of the 1990s. But the country still isn’t free from militancy.
In January 2013, an Al Qaeda-linked group took hostages at a gas plant in In Amenas. Thirty-nine foreign workers and one Algerian were killed in the attack. Gas facilities in Algeria also came under an Al Qaeda rocket attack in March last year.
Al Qaeda militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar led the attack on the In Amenas gas plant in 2013. He was removed from the US State Department’s Rewards for Justice list in January 2016, leading many to believe he has died.
After the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, huge quantities of weapons were looted from the country and landed in the hands of armed groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria. Algeria has thus far kept such groups largely at bay, but the weakening of the Algerian government could give militants, who can easily mobilise through the country’s porous desert boundaries, more room to gain ground.
But years of fighting have made Algerians weary of falling back into conflict, making a delayed Arab Spring highly unlikely, according to Dr. Ghanem-Yazbeck. “Algerians are eager for change but not by violent means. They paid a hefty price in the 1990s and they do not want to sacrifice thousands of lives again,” she said.
AUTHOR: Ertan Karpazli
Rapid progress – A carriage of the French-made TGV train arrives at the Moroccan port of Tangier, the first high-speed train to operate in Africa.
The TGVs are capable of speeds of 200 miles per hour, and they will cut the journey time between Tangier and Morocco’s economic capital Casablanca by more than half.
Orange Morocco said it is introducing new plans for professionals and entrepreneurs, including three hours of national calls, 2 GB of internet and 100 text messages, reports Morocco World News.
All of this is being offered in addition to unlimited calls among employees, according to Brahim Sbai, Director Central of Orange in Morocco. Since its takeover of Meditel in December 2016, Orange has launched a number of deals, such as unlimited calls and mobile roaming service for MAD 6 per minute and MAD 1 per MB in Orange’s roaming areas, according to Sbai.
Meditel, which used to be Morocco’s second largest telecom provider, surrendered total ownership to Orange on 08 December. Morocco World News reported at the time that Orange was planning to introduce new mobile and internet plans, with options to purchase cheap smartphones, priced between MAD 500-2,100. Orange’s CEO Yves Gautier said the company wants Moroccan customers to feel the arrival of Orange onto the market, particularly in terms of quality.
by Mariyana Yaneva
French power utility EDF (EPA:EDF) plans to boost its activities in Morocco with a view to support the kingdom’s energy transition and economic development, Jean-Bernard Levy, the CEO and chairman of EDF told local media.
“Morocco is a country of strategic interest to EDF,” Levy noted during a recent visit to Morocco to celebrate 20 years of EDF operations in the North African country. He added that Morocco’s energy policy is perfectly aligned with the company’s strategic goals for international development.
EDF is willing to continue developing renewable energy projects, putting to use its know-how in the solar and wind sector, in particular, as well as in energy efficiency and hydro power.
Via its renewables arm EDF Energies Nouvelles, the French company is currently working on a 150 MW wind power project, alongside partner Japanese trader Mitsui & Co (TYO:8031). The two won the project in 2012 tender with a price of MAD 0.57 (USD 0.057/ EUR 0.053) per kWh but problems with land ownership on the site have delayed the project so far. Once construction is underway, completion is expected within 18 months.
The Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (Masen) has announced plans to kick off tenders for two solar power plants totalling 800 MW this year.
by Mariyana Yaneva
Mariyana is a founding member of the SeeNews Renewables team. With nine years of professional experience in renewables she has built strong expertise in the wind industry and French-speaking markets.
by Patrick Markey
Western Sahara’s Polisario independence movement said it will ask EU and French authorities to seize the cargo of a ship it accused of illegally transporting marine oil from the Moroccan-controlled part of the disputed territory.
The case could break new legal ground in the long-running conflict over the desert region, where Polisario has declared an independent state, but which has been claimed by Morocco as part of its kingdom.
Mhamed Khadad, Polisario’s secretary for foreign affairs, said the oil shipment violated a ruling from the European Court of Justice last month that, for the purposes of two trade deals between the European Union and Morocco, said the territory of the latter did not include Western Sahara.
He said as an “occupying force”, Morocco had no right to issue export licences. The Moroccan foreign ministry declined to make any immediate comment.
Polisario said on its Sahara Press Service that it would file its complaint with the European Commission and French customs, “denouncing the illegal shipment of marine oil by a European tanker, Key Bay, from occupied Western Sahara’s town”, referring to Laayoune in the Moroccan-controlled area.
Western Sahara, which has significant phosphate reserves and offshore fishing, has been contested since 1975 when Spain, the former colonial power, withdrew. Morocco fought a 16-year war with Polisario, which established a self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.
Responding to an escalation in tension, U.N. peacekeeping observers have been deployed since August between Moroccan Royal Gendarmerie personnel and a unit of Polisario fighters facing off in a narrow strip of buffer zone between the two sides. (Reporting by Patrick Markey; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
Moroccan Industry Minister Moulay Hafid Elalamy on Tuesday said initial results of a plastic bag ban that began six months ago are “encouraging”, citing 2.76 million dirhams in fines (about 200,000 euros) collected from 139 companies and individuals who violated the ban, revealed during a series of 1,536 inspections.
Nearly 7,000 tonnes of plastic bags have ended up in incinerators, 19 tonnes have been stopped at the border, and 135 tonnes of non-conforming plastic bags have been seized.
Law 76/15 went into effect last July and makes it illegal to produce, import, export, sell or use plastic bags, which in Moroccan Darija Arabic are called “mika”.
Africa Business Communities
by Bob Koigi
One of Morocco’s leading commercial banks, BMCE bank has been ordered to pay up to $90 million in taxes for the financial years covering 2012-2015 in what is attributed to engaging in acts of tax evasion. Other firms that have also been fined for the same include OCP, Lydec, Saham Assurance.
To date, the Directorate General of Taxation has received amounts of $12 million from Lydec, $13 million from Saham Assurance, and $95 million from OCP.
Banque Marocaine Du Commerce Extérieur (BMCE Bank) has been mandated to pay its corporate tax, income tax, registration fees, stamp duties and value added tax for fiscal years 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. The total sum due is estimated at around $90 million, which represents 50 percent of the bank’s 2015 recorded revenue.
According to Economie Enterprises, the Moroccan Bank, which is owned by billionaire Othman Benjelloun, refused to receive the notification sent by registered mail from the Directorate General of Taxation.
The Directorate General of Taxation has decided, therefore, to send a bailiff to deliver the letter in person.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar said on Wednesday that Morocco’s return to the African Union (AU) reflects the kingdom’s attachment to the continent.
This attachment will enable Morocco to strengthen its presence in the continent as well as to contribute to Africa’s development, Mezouar told the press on the sidelines of the Moroccan parliament’s review of the constituent act of the African Union (AU), its additional protocol and the bill on the approval of the act.
Morocco’s parliament is expected to adopt the bill this week prior to the start of the AU summit on Jan. 22-31 at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The council of ministers approved the draft texts on Jan. 10 as part of its bid to rejoin the organization.
Morocco left the organization of African Unity, which later became the AU, in 1984 after the group recognized Western Sahara’s independence.
The North African country made an official request in last September to join the AU.
In recent weeks, the Moroccan king has toured several African countries seeking support for the bid.
NZ HERALD NEWS
Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, we walked into his, writes Pat McCarthy.
The receptionist at our hotel across a leafy square from the Casa Voyageurs train station pushed a photocopied map across the counter.
Her yellow highlighter sprang into action. “We’re here, the Corniche is here, the Medina is here, the mosque is here … and Rick’s Cafe is here.”
Rick’s Cafe? We’d heard that Morocco’s largest city had a restaurant based on the celebrated “gin joint” in the classic 1942 movie Casablanca.
But we hardly expected to hear it listed in the same breath as the US$800 million (NZ$1.1 billion) Hassan II Mosque that dominates Casablanca’s Atlantic seafront.
Especially since the movie was shot in Hollywood and had nothing to do with the city of Casablanca, except for using its name. And the original Rick’s Cafe Americain was a set on Warner Brothers’ Burbank lot, modelled on a hotel in Tangiers.
How could any attempt at replicating Rick’s be anything other than a tasteless ripoff? We should definitely investigate this pretender.
Braving Casablanca’s frenzied traffic, which shows scant respect for pedestrians, was no problem.
After several days in Marrakesh’s even more manic mix of motorbikes, cars and donkey carts, we were graduates of the “Yalla! In shaa Allah!” (Let’s go! God willing!) school of crossing streets.
We navigated the maze of souks in the old Medina and emerged on the seafront.
The mosque’s towering 210m minaret beckoned. We wanted to see its glass-floored prayer hall, which extends over the ocean and accommodates 25,000 worshippers, but it was closed.
It was mid-afternoon when we walked back along the Marina in search of Rick’s. At the Royal Moroccan Navy base we got directions in French from a brusque, moustachioed officer who could have been an understudy for the Nazi Major Strasser in the movie.
And there it was — “of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world” — a white stucco building with a grand entrance flanked by palm trees. Modest art deco lettering up high said Rick’s Cafe (the word Americain had been dropped). We fronted the bar to case the joint.
This was no rip-off. Elegant pointed arches surrounded an internal tiled courtyard. Potted palms, dark wooden furniture, carved screens, oriental drapes, tassel-fringed Moroccan lamps and a vintage grand piano conjured up a lush retro ambiance.
All it lacked was Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, as star-crossed lovers Rick and Ilsa, sipping their Champagne cocktails at the bar.
Thoroughly hooked, we booked for dinner.
Walking back along Boulevard Mohammed V, once a showcase of French colonial architecture, we passed the Cinema Rialto, an art-deco classic recently restored.
When the movie screened here, the locals must have been amazed to see their town depicted as a desert-bound colonial outpost teeming with refugees, spies, wheeler-dealers and assorted rogues.
When we returned, Rick’s was in evening dress.
Sophisticated lighting picked out the vivid white walls, waiters wore black waistcoats and ties, and the maitre d’ a fez. The clientele, though cosmopolitan, seemed devoid of shady characters.
Perched at the end of the bar was Kathy Kriger, who opened the cafe in 2004. An American ex-pat, she left her US embassy job after September 11, 2001, fearing American xenophobia would prompt an anti-Arab backlash in her beloved Casablanca.
Caviar may have been the only dish served in the movie cafe, but Kriger’s menu — European and Moroccan — is much more extensive. A signature dish is goat’s cheese croquettes with honey, lavender and crushed almonds.
Our young waiters were charming. One, a Berber, was in love with New Zealand, thanks to The Lord of the Rings.
At 9pm the pianist appeared — not Sam, but Issam (his real name). Issam Chabaa’s repertoire included standards of the 1940s and, of course, the haunting movie theme As Time Goes By.
A notice by the door warned against taking photographs without permission. Selfies with cellphones seemed tolerated, but when a tourist aimed a serious camera he was cautioned.
But, as Rick might have said, there are rules and there are deals. As we were leaving we asked our Lord of the Rings-struck waiter to take our picture out in the middle of the dining area. “But no flash,” he whispered. Sensing what we really wanted, he angled the shot to include the bar and Issam at the keyboard.
“We’ll see you in New Zealand,” we farewelled him as currency changed hands. “In shaa Allah!”
Trilobite fossils dating back to some 500 million years ago with an intact digestive system have been discovered in southern Morocco, not far from Zagora.
The finding was published by Britain’s prestigious scientific magazine Nature.
What is extraordinary about the Megistaspis, marine arthropods from the Paleozoic era, is the fact that their digestive system was intact.
The finding was made by a team of Spanish scientists headed by Professor Juan Carlos Gutierres-Marco from the Geosciences institute at the University of Madrid. Only about a dozen of archaeological sites worldwide can boast a similar discovery and many trilobites are little more than fossilized empty shells.
by Jamie Ashcroft
“Circle’s assets present an attractive opportunity to add material production and reserves at an attractive price,” says SDX Energy boss Paul Welch.
SDX Energy Inc (LON:SDX, CVE:SDX) revealed it has agreed to acquire the Egyptian and Moroccan assets of failed AIM firm Circle Oil.
A non-binding heads of terms agreement has been signed, and it gives SDX 30 days exclusivity to finalise a deal.
Circle Oil’s AIM quoted shares were suspended in June amid financial turmoil and its investors were warned a number of times through the second half of 2016 that there would be ‘little or no value left’ for equity holders.
Whilst Circle’s debt problems have long been publicised the group’s asset base appears to have remained attractive to Egypt based consolidator SDX Energy.
“We have made clear our firm intentions to create shareholder value by growing SDX into a profitable mid-tier E&P company,” said SDX chief executive Paul Welch.
“Circle’s assets present an attractive opportunity to add material production and reserves at an attractive price.”
Welch added: “We remain excited about the near term activities from our existing portfolio, including the near term South Disouq exploration well, and look forward to keeping our shareholders appraised of all developments.”
The proposed Circle Oil acquisition is subject to due diligence, SDX completing an equity funding, and other customary conditions.
SDX told investors that there can be no guarantee that the either an acquisition or equity fundraising will proceed.
Operationally, the group said it is entering into an exciting period with drilling slated at the high impact South Disouq exploration project in early 2017, and workover programmes due to further enhance the group’s existing production activities.
SDX Energy may be poised for its best ever year
In November, a quarterly results statement provided further evidence that the Egypt focussed petroleum firm has weathered the worst of the storm.
Thanks to a quality asset base comprising low-cost production it has been able to keep tight grip on its operations and, crucially, being debt free kept the group away from the perils that befell Egypt peers such as Petroceltic and Circle Oil in 2016.
“We couldn’t control oil prices but we could control costs,” chief executive Paul Welch told Proactive Investors.
“We could keep costs down, at less than US$10 a barrel, and so that meant even in the low, low price environment seen in February we were still cash-flow positive at asset level.
Welch added: “We were cashflow positive, we didn’t have any debt. We were much stronger into this downturn than perhaps some other companies were.”
At the moment the financials are a bit of a distraction for investors who are more readily anticipating new of upcoming drilling in the South Disouq exploration project which is located in an exciting area of the Nile Delta.
South Disouq is located at the southern fringe of what’s known as the Abu Madi-Baltim, a trend that is already host to major gas projects – estimated to have 6.3 trillion feet of gas and a 100mln barrels of liquids.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the primary target here is gas, indeed the concession is presently estimated to contain some 1.3 trillion cubic feet of resource potential. New seismic work, which is still being interpreted, has however unearthed an unexpected ‘blue sky’ opportunity.
This year’s 3D seismic indicates deeper exploration prospects which, significantly, could hold oil rather than gas.
It adds a new dimension to South Disouq, and is suspected to be the reason the project has suddenly got the attention of high-calibre operators that are now interested in taking a stake in the project.
SDX has 55% of South Disouq, its share of drilling costs are already carried by its partner, and according to chief executive Paul Welch a second farm-out wasn’t part of the plan – nonetheless, the names that have been enquiring causes some pause for thought.
“We’ve been approached by some very serious companies,” Welch added.
by Jamie Ashcroft