Glencore seeks $550 million to raise stakes in Kurdish oil game
LONDON: Glencore is seeking to raise $550 million from investors via a debt issue guaranteed by oil from Iraqi Kurdistan in an attempt to secure a big slice of the high-risk - and high-reward - market in a region at war with Islamic State. Kurdish oil has been targeted by European traders over the past two years, during an industry downturn, since Erbil began selling oil independently from Baghdad. It has been relatively cheap due to the potential for supply disruptions and threats from Iraq’s central government to sue anyone touching the crude.
The government of the autonomous Kurdish region in Erbil has borrowed around $2 billion from Glencore’s rivals such as Vitol, Petraco and Trafigura to be repaid in oil. The companies have all borrowed money from banks and lent it to Erbil at their own risk. Glencore, whose commodity trading division has been under pressure to perform as mining profits have declined, was the last merchant to enter the game earlier this year by lending $300 million to Erbil. The loan is being repaid by way of one mid-sized oil cargo a month, worth around $25 million.
Now the company is seeking a much bigger role in the region, but wants to split the risks by selling debt notes to be repaid with Kurdish oil income, according to a prospectus seen by Reuters. Technically, the money would be raised by a special-purpose vehicle, says the document which has been sent to a small number of investors who specialise in high-risk markets. It says Glencore expects to enter into a new 5-year agreement with the government of Kurdistan to buy its crude, with deliveries rising from one cargo in January, to two in February-March, four in April and six from May onwards. Six cargoes a month would represent a quarter of overall exports from Kurdistan and would be worth over $1.7 billion a year at today’s price of around $40 per barrel for Kurdish oil, and more than $8 billion over the course of five years.