(Corrects Gandur's title to chairman, not CEO)
* Aims to be top downstream firm in sub-Saharan Africa
* AOG will be rival to Vitol, Trafigura
* Says plans to invest in Nigerian oil bloc this year
* Hires new managing director of trading from Total
By Emma Farge
GENEVA, Feb 5 Addax & Oryx Group (AOG) plans to
invest $400 million in Africa's energy sector over the next five
years, its Chairman said, in a strategic U-turn after sales
talks collapsed last year.
AOG's focus on the African downstream will pit the
privately-owned Swiss firm against rivals Vitol and Trafigura
which are also vying for assets in sub-Saharan Africa as trading
Many oil executives tip Africa as the fastest growing
continent in the next decade, catching up with Asia which has
fuelled commodities growth in recent years.
"We want to build more infrastructure in Africa, develop
specialities like bitumen and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), and
will invest $400 million over the next four to five years,"
AOG's chairman Jean Claude Gandur said in an interview on Monday
at his Geneva office.
The company, which has a smorgasbord of investments from
gold mining to real estate, has 1,300 employees and already has
storage and retail assets in nations like Mali, Nigeria and Togo
and expects the number of employees to be 2,000 by year-end.
Ecobank Research said this week in its 2013 outlook that
demand for fuels in Africa was likely to rise by 40 percent to
4.3 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2020.
Swiss industry veteran Gandur is best known for selling
AOG's upstream assets to China's Sinopec Group in 2009 for $7.2
billion, a sale that catapulted him onto Forbes rich list.
He said AGO's Las Palmas fuels storage terminal on Spain's
Canary Islands would start in September or October, placing the
firm in prime position to meet west Africa's fuel import needs.
The company was planning to build around 20 infrastructure
assets related to fuel distribution as part of the five-year
plan, according to Gandur. South Africa would be the "next big
push" for the company's expansion, he added.
"I lost a bit of time as I was in upstream. I have to use
this five-year programme to get back in the number 1 position in
sub-saharan Africa," Gandur added.
"It's a refocusing around the assets."
AOG, founded by Gandur 25 years ago and named after two
African antelopes, sought to sell its African trading and
downstream assets last year but talks with a U.S. private equity
firm fell through.
During this period, the company confirmed that it made 18
redundancies on its trading desk following the loss of key
traders since the Sinopec sale to Geneva rivals SOCAR and
He said there would be no further redundancies on the
trading desk which has now merged with the downstream business.
"Trading is for young people who are very, very hungry. I've
done it. It's 200 days a year of travelling and sacrifices,"
said Gandur, who started his own trading career at Zug-based
Philipp Brothers in 1976.
Asked if the company would replace its managing director of
trading and distribution Emmanuel de Reynies, Gandur said he was
already replaced with Philippe Evrard, a former chartering and
crude oil trading manager from Total.
He added that the company would hire 18 staff members in
Geneva as part of the Las Palmas project.
Industry sources had speculated that one reason why the sale
fell through was AOG's partial exposure to a Nigerian fuel debt,
estimated at around $3.5 billion, a premise that Gandur
Other companies like Mercuria, Glencore and Vitol
are also owed money by Nigeria's state oil firm.
"My bill was $250 million. We have reduced it by around 30
percent and we are not at the end of the queue for payments,"
Gandur said, adding most of the AOG debt was insured or
shouldered by banks.
AOG, which also has five exploration blocs in Africa and the
Middle East including Iraq's Kurdistan, will continue looking to
invest in the upstream via its Oryx Petroleum branch, he said.
AOG was formerly a top producer in Nigeria before the
Sinopec sale and still counts a former executive of Nigeria's
state oil firm NNPC, Afolabi Oladele, on its board.
"We would like to buy more in Nigeria. It's an excellent
basin and we feel very welcome in this country. It's an
objective for this year to add more acreage," Gandur said.
(Editing by William Hardy and James Jukwey)