October 8, 2007 / 2:23 PM / 12 years ago

UPDATE 2-Qatar firm plans $1.5 bln Zimbabwe refinery, hotel

(Updates with details)

By John Irish

DUBAI, Oct 8 (Reuters) - A company run by a member of Qatar’s ruling family is investing around $1.5 billion in Zimbabwe, to build an oil refinery and a hotel, and says it is not concerned about the country’s political and economic crisis.

Venessia Petroleum plans to build a 120,000 barrels-per-day refinery in Harare, while a sister company will develop a five-star hotel in the Zimbabwean capital, the company’s general manager Jawhar Zaidi said on Monday.

President Robert Mugabe, shunned by the West over policies such as the seizure of white-owned farms to resettle black people, is courting Asian and Muslim governments to invest in his country, where the economy is on the brink of collapse.

“We have been in the region for a while and we’re not worried about the political situation,” Zaidi told Reuters by telephone from Doha.

Consultants would start designing the refinery, costing as much as $1.5 billion, by the end of the year once a feasibility study was completed, he said.

“We would look to import crude from Qatar or another Middle Eastern country,” Zaidi said. Qatar has the world’s third largest natural gas reserves and is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Venessia Petroleum is chaired by Abdulaziz Bin Mohammad Bin Jabor al-Thani, a member of Qatar’s ruling family, Zaidi said.

The company, which operates overseas as Venessia General Trading, was set up as part of the government’s plans to help develop Qatar’s energy sector, according to Venessia’s Web site.

Venessia General Trading is investing in hotels and oil storage facilities in the southern African country of Malawi, Zaidi said.

The company has permission to build a five-star hotel in Harare for about $136 million, he said.

The Zimbabwe government has proposed a bill to transfer majority ownership of foreign companies to Zimbabweans. If it becomes law, it will force mining and banking firms to give at least 51 percent control to Zimbabweans.

Zimbabwe has the highest inflation rate in the world at an annual 6,600 percent.

The government has in the past two years signed deals with countries such as China and Iran to invest in areas including mining, agriculture and engineering.

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