Algeria names new chief for state energy firm Sonatrach

Algeria’s oil and gas earnings have fallen 15% since last year.
Sunday 09/02/2020
The logo of Sonatrach seen at the company’s headquarters in Algiers. (Reuters)
New trajectory. The logo of Sonatrach seen at the company’s headquarters in Algiers. (Reuters)

ALGIERS - Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune appointed Toufik Hakkar as the head of state energy firm Sonatrach, state television reported.

Hakkar, a senior Sonatrach executive, replaced Kamel Eddine Chikhi, who was named head of the company in November, the latest in a rapid carousel of changes at the top in recent years.

Algeria, a major gas supplier to Europe, relies on hydrocarbon sales for 60% of its budget revenue but they have slumped since the oil price fell in 2014, leading to a big decline in foreign currency reserves.

Figures indicate oil and gas earnings reached $30.3 billion in the first 11 months of 2019, a 15% fall from the same period a year earlier as domestic demand and lower output reduced export volumes.

Algeria responded by trying to boost production capacity and is seeking investment from international oil companies to help it to do so. In December, it enacted a law to encourage such investments but still bars foreign companies from owning a majority share in Algerian energy projects.

Falling energy revenues are hitting the state budget, for which a 9% cut in public spending was approved for this year, while leaving politically sensitive subsidies unchanged.

Any major cuts in government programmes would be particularly difficult given the major political crisis that has rocked Algeria for the past year, with a mass protest movement that helped oust the veteran president in April.

Tebboune was elected in December in a vote that the protesters rejected, saying no election was legitimate while the ruling elite remained in place. He appointed a new government in January.