Energy Ministry Doubts HRT

BRAZILIAN oil firm HRT has informed the Namibian government that it still wants to explore for oil in Namibia, despite skepticism from top officials in the ministry of energy who are not convinced by that assurance.

Information that HRT wants to stay in Namibia is linked to speculation that there are plans to revamp the brand and restart the whole exploration process which will give several well connected businessmen a chance to make more money from perceptions that Namibia has oil off its coast. HRT will soon rebrand to PetroRio.

Even though The Namibian reported last month that HRT’s Namibian subsidiary is in the final stages of retrenching workers in Windhoek ahead of closure, there are those who said that HRT still wants to continue being around.

“They said they are interested in continuing with exploration in Namibia, although we are not really convinced. Their partners who were part of their licences are separately telling us that they are not really interested,” said a source.

Well-placed government officials told The Namibian yesterday that HRT, which is co-owned by exploration middleman Knowledge Katti, will as from next month lose their interest in all their petroleum licences.

“Two of their licences have already expired while one will expire this month and another next month. By end of June, HRT will have no active licences in Namibia, unless they renew the ones that have not expired yet,” added the source.

HRT was the second largest Namibian exploration licence holder with 10 oil blocks off the Namibian coast.

An official said the government is not convinced that HRT wants to retain the oil blocks they have in Namibia since most of their licences are expiring.

“For the ones that have already expired there’s no chance for renewal as they were supposed to apply for renewal before expiry,” said a source.

Even though they are not obliged to inform the Namibian government about their plans to vacate Namibia, HRT left the government in the dark about future plans to an extent that the ministry of energy had to write a letter asking for an update. HRT replied that they are still interested.

The Namibian understands that the ministry of mines and energy is now responding to HRT to explain the status of their oil licences.

Energy minister Obeth Kandjoze and petroleum commissioner Immanuel Mulunga yesterday declined to comment on the status of HRT in the country.

The two confirmed in the last news report that HRT had told them unofficially that they are no longer interested in pursuing their exploration efforts in Namibia.

The company, which is either facing an end of the road of its operations in Namibia or resurrection into a new firm, has g links to businessmen and politicians close to state power, such as Katti and home affairs minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana through a company called Kunene Energy.

Iivula-Ithana said she has ended her stake in Kunene, the same company that was subsequently sold to HRT.

HRT also enjoyed access to State House because of their political connections.

The Brazilian firm made history in 2013 by being the first private oil entity to host a media conference at State House to announce the discovery of oil although this had no commercial value.

The event was fronted by Katti, accompanied by his friend former Prime Minister Hage Geingob and Cabinet ministers.

Questions sent to Katti via email were not answered while his mobile phone was off.

News of the closure comes a few months after a prominent Brazilian stock exchange website, Capital Aberto, revealed that some HRT board members in Brazil paid themselves handsome bonuses when they resigned from the company.

An investment research website named seekingalpha.com in January this year titled ‘HRT Participaccedilotildees And Oleo E Gas Participacoes – lessons learned from the disasters’ said that instead of selling off some assets, the directors paid huge bonuses to themselves first.

The report further said HRT raised US$1,5 billion on the first day of trading on the Brazilian stock exchange in 2010, partly using oil blocks in Namibia, and went on to lose all that money within the next four years.

Source : The Namibian