Willbros decides to pull out of Nigeria and sell assets

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Willbros decides to pull out of Nigeria and sell assets

Postby Richard Akindele » Thu Aug 10, 2006 1:53 pm

Citing ongoing attacks by militants, Willbros Group said Wednesday it is selling its assets and operations in Nigeria.

Willbros, which has administrative offices in Houston and headquarters in Panama, said the move is tied to an evaluation of its strategic options that started last year, which also has led it to decide to shed its Venezuelan operation.

The engineering and construction company gained attention worldwide earlier this year when nine employees were taken hostage in Nigeria. The workers were released unharmed after several weeks.

The company made the announcement in a prepared statement Wednesday that reported a net loss of $38.1 million, or $1.77 a share, including a $39 million charge for its Nigeria operations. The company's quarterly loss compares with a loss of $9.92 million, or 47 cents, during the same period a year earlier. Revenue increased 75 percent to $119.1 million.

Willbros said its income there was reduced by about $37 million.

Mike Curran, Willbros' chairman and chief executive, said the company will dramatically reduce its level of operations in Nigeria and focus on markets that offer better opportunities and returns, including in North America.

In its earnings report, Willbros reported the Nigeria and Venezuela assets and operations as discontinued operations.

The company said it reached a preliminary agreement to sell the Venezuelan operation in late June to an unnamed party, and it is expected to close in October. Curran said that officials concluded the spread and escalation of hostilities against oil and natural gas facilities and workers in Nigeria exceed acceptable risk levels.

"The attacks of militants have directly and indirectly affected Willbros on a continuous basis since the hostage-taking incident of Feb. 18, 2006," he said. "However, since mid-June, the situation in Nigeria has worsened, with attacks increasing throughout the country. Additional production operations in the Delta area have been, and remain, shut in."

Houston Chronicle
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Belgian, Moroccan oil workers kidnapped in Nigeria

Postby Richard Akindele » Thu Aug 10, 2006 1:55 pm

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Two oil industry contractors, one Belgian and one Moroccan, were kidnapped from their car by armed men in Nigeria's southern city of Port Harcourt on Thursday, police said.

It was the fourth abduction in Nigeria's southern oil heartland in a week and follows a wave of militant attacks against the industry which has cut oil production in the world's eighth largest exporter by 25 percent since February.

"Two foreigners working for a company in Borokiri were kidnapped by armed men," said Samuel Agbetuyi, police commissioner for Rivers state.

A colleague at Dredging International Services Nigeria in Port Harcourt said the hostages were Belgian and Moroccan.

"They were taken from their car at 6:45. It was an armed kidnap," the colleague said, asking not to be named.

Dredging International is a unit of Belgium-based DEME Group and works as a dredging and ship services contractor to several Western oil companies in Nigeria.

On Wednesday, two Norwegians and two Ukrainians were snatched at gunpoint from a ship servicing an oil rig off the coast of neighbouring Bayelsa state, while a German and three Filipinos were abducted in two separate incidents in Rivers state last week.

Kidnappings of foreign workers are frequent in the mangrove-lined creeks and swamps of the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria, which is home to all of Nigeria's oil and gas.

Militancy is fuelled by widespread feelings of injustice in the vast wetlands region where most people live in poverty despite the wealth being pumped from their ancestral lands.

Criminal gangs, sometimes involved in the large-scale theft of crude oil from pipelines, also regularly indulge in kidnapping and extortion, and it is often difficult to distinguish between the two.

A series of attacks by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in February forced Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L: Quote, Profile, Research) to evacuate hundreds of staff from the western delta, reducing output by about 500,000 barrels a day.

The group, which is a coalition of militia from across the region almost the size of England, says it wants more local control over the delta's oil resources, compensation for pollution and the release of two jailed leaders from the region.

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4 oil workers kidnapped in Nigeria

Postby Richard Akindele » Thu Aug 10, 2006 2:01 pm

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria — Gunmen kidnapped four Norwegian and Ukrainian workers from a boat heading to oil rigs in the latest violence targeting the petroleum industry in Nigeria, the continent's largest exporter of crude oil, officials said Wednesday.

The two Norwegians and two Ukrainians were taken hostage in the Gulf of Guinea late Tuesday during a raid on a supply vessel owned by Norwegian shipping firm Trico Supply, company spokesman Bjorn Endresen said.

Trico Marine Services Inc., the company that owns Trico Supply, said it had made contact with the kidnapped Norwegians and negotiations had begun for their release.

"They are well," the company said in a statement.

There was no immediate word on the fate of the Ukrainians.

Andy Oputa, a security official for Nigeria's Bayelsa State, confirmed the kidnappings and said negotiators had been sent to the Niger Delta region, where most of the crude is pumped. Another state official said the capture took place nearly 30 miles from shore, with gunmen boarding the ship as it headed to oil rigs off the West African coast.

Endresen said 11 other crew members were aboard the ship at the time of the kidnapping but he did not give more details.

"All I can tell you is that we're working hard, putting all of our efforts to solving this case," he said.

Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokesman Frode Overland Andersen declined to comment on whether any ransom demands were made. He said the Norwegian Embassy in Abuja was working with local authorities to obtain more details on the abductions.

The kidnappings came less than a week after militants wearing camouflage uniforms took a German oil industry worker hostage, spiriting him away on a boat into Nigeria's troubled oil-rich delta region. A group calling itself the Movement for the Niger Delta People has claimed responsibility for that kidnapping, but police said the group was unknown.

Militants have kidnapped oil workers to bargain for a greater share of the wealth from Africa's largest crude producer. They argue that residents remain deeply impoverished and benefit little from oil wealth while government officials and oil companies grow rich.

More than 30 workers have been taken this year, including three from the oil-producing hub of Port Harcourt. Kidnappings and attacks have forced a nearly 20 percent reduction of Nigeria's usual 2.5 million barrel daily production, helping send crude prices soaring in international markets.

The vast majority of kidnappings end peacefully.

Associated Press
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Kidnap - Julius Berger to Pull Out of Niger Delta

Postby Richard Akindele » Sat Aug 12, 2006 2:07 am

Following threats of kidnapping of its staff and the deteriorating security situation in the Niger Delta, construction giant, Julius Berger Nigeria PLC, has decided to move out of the region completely and immediately.

The Governor of Bayelsa State, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan warned that in view of this and the consequence of it to the development of the region, government has decided to take drastic measures against the militants. "We cannot continue to be taking people, contractors that are working for us hostage, this must stop".He warned.

Jonathan was particularly hard on community leaders who continue to harbour known militants by creating a safe haven instead of exposing them.

He disclosed that already the company was to handle the East-West road dualisation from the Port Harcourt to Kaiama in the state, "but now that they are pulling out, your road is going to continue to remain bad" he told the people.

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