Algerian state energy firm Sonatrach replaces CEO with an ex-felon

ALGIERS, March 20 – Algerian state energy firm Sonatrach has replaced Chief Executive Amine Mazouzi after less than two years in the job with Abdelmoumen Ould Kadour, the energy ministry said on Monday.

The surprise decision comes at a sensitive time for Sonatrach and Algeria, which began to increase oil and gas production last year after a prolonged period of stagnation and a lack of major foreign investment.

A statement from the ministry gave no reason for the change. Ould Kadour is an engineer who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and headed U.S.-Algerian firm Brown & Root Condor in the 1990s.

Before Mazouzi’s appointment in May 2015, the energy giant went through turbulent times with five CEOs in five years, shaken by a corruption scandal, weak foreign oil interest in energy bids and pressure from the drop on crude prices.

 

Ould Kadour was a close friend of Chakib Khelil. On November 26, 2007, the military court in Blida ruled in a closed session against the CEO of BRC, Moumen Ould Kaddour. He was sentenced to three years in prison. It was at the heart of one of the biggest scandals of Algeria after the independance. Today he is at the head of Sonatrach.

But there have been divergent views within Algeria’s ruling elite over how hard to push for foreign investment and domestic economic reform to boost revenues and spur growth.

In the statement, Energy Minister Noureddine Boutarfa called on Ould Kadour to “act with full responsibility and confidence to put in place the qualitative changes that allow Sonatrach to evolve and prosper in a calm business climate”.

The sharp fall in oil prices hit Algeria hard, prompting the government to look at more flexible ways to improve revenues. Algeria’s energy revenues were $27.5 billion in 2016, less than half the $60 billion it earned in 2014.

(Writing by Aidan Lewis; editing by Dale Hudson and David Clarke)

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