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Gulf States News - Issue 1083 - 20/06/2019

Tehran keeps the Gulf guessing as tanker attacks raise new questions

It is not yet another ‘Tanker War’, but the latest sabotage of oil tankers has highlighted again the region’s vulnerability to attacks on its key export. Oil prices have remained relatively steady – influenced by a global bear market and substantial stocks in major consumers – but the attacks on six ships in May and June still carry the risk that geopolitical tensions between Iran and the United States could spill over into a full-blown conflict, whether by accident or design.

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African Energy - Issue 394 - 13/06/2019

Management of Algeria’s economy under populist/nationalist pressure

The announcement by interim President Abdelkader Bensalah that Algeria will not, after all, hold a presidential election on 4 July points to many more months of political unpredictability. Protests remain largely peaceful, but there is a growing prospect of turmoil as a ruling elite led by deputy defence minister and army chief of staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaïd Salah seeks to outflank a popular protest movement whose leadership remains defined by its anonymity (AE 391/1, 388/1).

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Gulf States News - Issue 1082 - 06/06/2019

Mecca summits underline divisions and distrust among former Gulf allies

There was plenty of hype, but a pair of summits organised at short notice by Saudi Arabia as the holy month of Ramadan was coming to a close failed to foster any sense of unity among the regional actors. Instead the gatherings have served to highlight the region’s many divisions; a series of petty snubs and undiplomatic arguments before and after the Mecca summits suggest there is little prospect of the situation improving in the short-term.

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African Energy - Issue 393 - 30/05/2019

Mobisol and Solarkiosk insolvencies highlight risk in off-grid

Solar home systems (SHS) pioneer Mobisol has entered self-administered insolvency proceedings at the District Court of Charlottenburg in Berlin. The move announced on 18 April gives the management three months to turn the company around and conclude negotiations with prospective investors that began at the start of the year. Mobisol has been operating since 2011.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1081 - 23/05/2019

Region on edge as Tehran and Washington push war-like rhetoric

The threat of a major confrontation in the region remains real. While both sides publicly say they do not want a conflict, some senior figures in the United States, such as long-time Iranophobe national security advisor John Bolton, are acting as if they do, while hardliners in the Islamic Republican Guards Corp (IRGC) and other revolutionary and ‘principalist’ bastions in Iran would not shy away from confrontation either. In such an environment the biggest threat may be that misunderstandings lead to war by accident rather than by design.

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African Energy - Issue 392 - 16/05/2019

Zambia’s Zesco seeks to renegotiate power tariffs with IPPs

State power utility Zesco is seeking to renegotiate its power purchase agreements with independent power producers (IPPs) in an effort to curb its ballooning debt. At end-April 2019, Zesco owed IPPs about $680m, and the company says low power tariffs mean it has little hope of reducing the burden.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1080 - 09/05/2019

The pattern of Saudi power shifts as the ‘MBS cohort’ of royals emerges

Some 30 Al-Saud princes – and one princess – have been appointed to positions of authority by King Salman Bin Abdelaziz since 2017. The appointments have come in waves: 22 in 2017 (GSN 1,041/6), seven in 2018 (GSN 1,072/1, 1,061/6, 1,055/1) and four in spring 2019 (GSN 1,075/1). Many are notably young, in a system that has traditionally not favoured youth, and are drawn from the same cohort as Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS).

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African Energy - Issue 391 - 02/05/2019

Ould Kaddour sacked as Algerian regime seeks to show commitment to change

Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour was dismissed as head of state energy giant Sonatrach on 23 April, to be replaced by head of production Rachid Hachichi. Respected as an industry professional but widely distrusted for his links to the now discredited Bouteflika clan, and especially his ties to the politically ambitious former energy minister Chakib Khelil, Ould Kaddour’s position was in doubt even before Abdelaziz Bouteflika departed the presidency (AE 390/18, 388/3). His removal was announced by the interim president, Abdelkader Bensalah, as the remaining leadership – in which deputy defence minister and army chief of staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaïd Salah continues to play a leading role (AE 388/1) – sought to show protesters that the regime is capable of change.

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Gulf States News - Issue 1079 - 29/04/2019

Stockholm peace process fails to stop fighting in Yemen’s trouble spots

Clashes are escalating in Taiz, as rival pro-government factions vie to expand their control throughout the central Yemeni city and surrounding rural areas. Meanwhile, Houthi forces in the north and east of the city continue their four year-long siege. The violence further highlights the lack of progress, five months on, of the Stockholm peace plan, which called for the opening of Taiz to merchants and international aid organisations. Progress is similarly slow in Hodeidah’s negotiations. There are concerns that President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s latest political manoeuvring may exacerbate the conflict in Taiz, rather than deliver a solution.

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African Energy - Issue 390 - 18/04/2019

Equatorial Guinea takes hard line on Zafiro extension

While minister of mines and hydrocarbons Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima is clearly in a hurry to bring more oil and gas resources into production and to raise the profile of his country within the global hydrocarbons industry, he is also holding out for the best deals he can get. Market speculation is focused on a prospective deal for London-based independent Trident Energy – which is led by former Perenco executives and describes itself as an expert in reviving mid-life oil and gas assets – to take over ExxonMobil’s Zafiro oil and gas field, which started production in 1996. Production levels are declining and Exxon’s contract expires in 2023.

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