OTEDOLA, DANGOTE’S RELATIONSHIP GETTING MESSIER: AP N40BILLION PUBLIC OFFER MONEY TRAPPED IN BANKS

When a very top official of the National Accounting Standard Board told a gathering that a total N40billion being part of the money raised during the public offer of African Petroleum is trapped in some Nigerian banks, then there must be a cause for concern.
The offer which had closed since September last year has […]

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CHEVRON CORPORATION BACKS OUT OF SALE OF CHEVRON NIGERIA TO DANTATA

When on 19 September, 2008 the media relations unit of Chevron Corporation USA circulated a press announcing that its subsidiary, Chevron Africa Holdings Limited had agree to sell Chevron Nigeria Holding to Corlay Global SA, the press release carried a caveat in compliance with the Cautionary Statement Relevant to Forward-Looking Information for the Purpose of “Safe Harbor” Provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.

The cautionary statement informed readers that:

“Some of the items discussed in this press release are forward-looking statements about Chevron’s activities in Nigeria. Words such as “anticipates,” “expects,” “intends,” “plans,” “targets,” “projects,” “believes,” “seeks,” “estimates” and similar expressions are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. The statements are based upon management’s current expectations, estimates and projections; are not guarantees of future performance; and are subject to certain risks, uncertainties and other factors, some of which are beyond the company’s control and are difficult to predict. You should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date of this press release. Unless legally required, Chevron undertakes no obligation to update publicly any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.”

The caveat may just be appropriate because in the wake of the announcement of the agreement of sale of the downstream operations of Chevron Nigeria to Sayyu Dantata’s MRS, the intensity of the legal battle which had dogged the process of bidding for the 60 percent holding of Chevron Corporation held through Chevron Africa, moved some more notches and in the light of this, it is believed that the Chevron is considering appropriate channels to announce a reversal of its announcement.

Femi Otedola, Zenon Oil and Gas and Africa Petroleum Chairman had secured an injunction at a Lagos Federal High Court restraining Chevron from selling the 60 percent holdings without recourse to his 19 percent minority holding which, he claimed, may be jeopardized if the contested 60 percent holding was sold to another bidder who may lack the required expertise and resources to profitably operate the business.

Despite the injunction, Chevron parent office in San Ramon in the United States of America had gone ahead to announce the agreement to sell to Dantata’s company in defiance of the court order. Industry insiders reasoned that the announcement might have been a pre-emptive move to undermine the legal process in Nigeria. But beyond this consideration, industry insiders have argued that Chevron must have been emboldened to make the announcement in consideration of the influence of the backer of Sayyu, a profiled wealthy industrialist whom Chevron believes could pull the right strings in Nigeria to side-step the court proceedings and to also get the backing of the political power base in the country to talk Otedola into surrendering his claims to Chevron.

As was expected, Otedola initiated, through his lawyers, contempt proceedings against Chevron at the Federal High Court but last week Wednesday, he dramatically applied to withdraw the contempt proceeding in the court. This had sent some confusing signals to a growing population of the bid for Chevron.

A source close to Otedola, however, informed that the withdrawal of the contempt charge was strategic.

“The contempt proceeding had to be withdrawn because it may turn out to be a distraction from the main issue of the case.” The source said.

Another source believes that application to stop the contempt proceeding in court may not be unconnected with new revelations that Chevron Corporation, the parent company of Chevron Nigeria may have, indeed, stalled the process of transfer of the 60 percent holding in Chevron Nigeria to Dantata’s MRS in part, because of the on-going legal tango, and in part, because the required sum of money to consummate the purchase have not been made to it.

“The fact is that most Nigerian banks that are supposed to finance the acquisition have backed out, so it’s as if it is difficult to raise the fund locally.”

Any one of the two reasons for the reported abortion of the sale agreement might have thrown the spanners into what the initiators of the MRS bid for Chevron had planned by way of making the Nigerian public pay indirectly for the funding of the 60 percent shares of Chevron Nigeria.

“The strategy to my mind is simple. If the banks financed the acquisition of Chevron, it would have been easy for Sayyu and his backer to pay back the banks simply by selling 25 percent of the holding of Chevron to Nigerian investors through the Nigerian Stock Exchange. This way, they will still hold majority holdings in the company and they would have used money raised from ordinary Nigerians to pay back the money the banks used to finance the initial acquisition.” The source reasoned.

Meanwhile, Chevron has also made public its intention to sell its downstream operations trading under the Caltex brand name in Kenya.   According to AP, the front runners eyeing Chevron’s elaborate retail network include State-owned National Oil Corporation of Kenya and Gulf Africa Petroleum Corporation (Gapco). The two control a paltry 3.65 per cent and 2.65 per cent retail market share respectively.

Speculation is also rife that the cash-rich Oil Libya is equally an interested party, perhaps seeking a foothold in the Mombasa-based Kenya Petroleum Refinery Limited (KPRL), which has been much sought after by big multinationals, and is partly owned by Caltex.

The law, as spelt out under the Kenya’s Energy Act, requires Chevron to notify the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) of its intention to divest or transfer the licence to another oil marketer.

Previously, only the Treasury was notified in the event of divestiture by any firm.

“If the sale of Chevron will be through competitive bidding, this process may take some time to be concluded,” said Mr Peter Nduru, Head of Petroleum at ERC.

Treasury is reportedly pushing for Chevron to sell off only its Kenyan business unit to National Oil, despite plans by the global petroleum giant to sell its Kenya and Uganda operations as one bundle.

The AP report, however, observed that unlike in Kenya, this sale transaction on Chevron Nigeria was closed quickly when Chevron Nigeria hurriedly announced the agreement to sell to MRS.

No curbs on Wall Street workers big pay despite meltdown

Now, can we do a snap shot on the foreign scene as the financial meltdown is still melting (that can describe ill temper of the international financial and stock market)

News has it that despite the Wall Street meltdown, United States of America’s biggest banks are preparing to pay their workers as much as last year or more, including bonuses tied to personal and company performance.

So far this year, nine of the largest U.S. banks, including some that have cut thousands of jobs, have seen total costs for salaries, benefits and bonuses grow by an average of three per cent from a year ago, according to an Associated Press review.

“Taxpayers have lost their life savings, and now they are being asked to bail out corporations,” New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said of the AP findings. “It’s adding insult to injury to continue to pay outsized bonuses and exorbitant compensation.”

Banks will decide what to pay out in bonuses in the coming months. Just because they’ve been accruing money for incentive pay doesn’t mean they will pay it out in full.

That there is a rise in pay, or at least not a pronounced dropoff, from 2007 is surprising because many of the same companies were doing some of their best business ever, at least in the first half of last year. In 2008, each quarter has been weaker than the last.

“There are, of course, expectations that the payouts should be going down,” David Schmidt, a senior compensation consultant at James F. Reda & Associates. “But we haven’t seen that show up yet.”

Some banks are setting aside large amounts. At Citigroup, which has cut 23,000 jobs this year amid the crisis, pay expenses for the first nine months of this year came to $25.9 billion, four per cent more than the same period last year.

Even if you subtract what the bank has shelled out in severance pay and other costs related to the job cuts, overall pay is only slightly lower this year.

Typically, about 60 per cent of Wall Street pay goes to salary and benefits, while about 40 per cent goes to end-of-the-year cash and stock bonuses that hinge on performance, both for the individual and the company, said Brad Hintz, a securities industry analyst at Sanford Bernstein and a former chief financial officer at Lehman Brothers.

“The fundamental goal of the compensation plan is to allow an employee to get wealthy,” Hintz said. He also pointed out that the workers’ pay is supposed to be “exposed to the risk of the parent company.”

This should be the year where that structure is tested. The financial crisis, brought about by mountains of bad mortgage-related assets, caused banks to falter or fail and lending to dry up and prompted Congress to pass a $700 billion bailout package. As part of that, government is pouring $125 billion through stock purchases into the nine large financial companies cited in AP’s review of compensation.

Besides Citigroup, those include Bank of New York Mellon, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley (MS), JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), and State Street. Another $125 billion will be made available to other banks.

Those taking cash from Uncle Sam must follow guidelines limiting executive pay, including a ban on golden parachutes for departing executives. No restrictions are placed on across-the-board pay.

In total, those nine banks had pay-related costs of $108 billion for the first three quarters of the year. The average increase came to three per cent, according to AP figures.