Rabat – After years in a legal and financial quagmire and inability to find suitors, SAMIR, Morocco’s once-promising oil refinery and now bankrupt company, is reportedly attracting interest from buyers again.
Exol Lubricants Morocco, a subsidiary of Britain’s Exol Lubricants Limited Holding, has put together a bid to acquire SAMIR, hoping to salvage the refinery from complete demise and make the promising gasoline source what it once was.
The news, which was relayed earlier this week by Moroccan newspaper Medias 24, comes at a singularly heady time for the refinery.
According to the newspaper, Exol’s offer, while a lifeline for the majority of Moroccans associated with the refinery—especially workers who have been protesting against the closure of the company—has not been well received by a number of front-bench shareholders.
Exol, whose bid was assessed during a hearing at the Casablanca commercial court on June 11, Medias 24 reported, is offering $8.23 million to acquire the assets of the almost defunct SAMIR.
Mohamed Saouabi, the British company’s Morocco representative, was present at the hearing to “confirm the company’s interest” in SAMIR, the newspaper noted. Prior to the court hearing, Saouabi had submitted its bidding to syndic Abdelkbir Safadi, who has been monitoring the bidding process for the liquidation of SAMIR’ assets.
Exol presented its offer weeks after the syndic initiated a tender process. But the syndic’s decision to receive or reject any offer will only come after he has heard the opinions of all parties involved in the liquidation process, the newspaper recalled. It added, however, that of the parties with a say in the completion of the transaction, only the customs services have a favorable opinion of Exol’s bid.
Other shareholders, including the Banque Centrale Populaire (BCP), are yet to assess the British offer. But it is understood that BCP does not view Exol’s bid favorably. Driss Laraqui, a BCP legal counselor, said the offer is “too low” and does not compare well with the usual international rate in such situations.
The representative of SAMIR employees, who unlike BCP is in favor of a complete liquidation of assets, has however opposed Exol’s offer, arguing that the price the company is willing to pay is low and “below market standards” in the refinery industry.
Also standing in Exol’s way is that some other contenders are believed to have offered a much higher price for the transaction.
That includes Glencore, a Swiss-British commodity and mining company, and Trafigura, a Geneva-based commodity trading giant. The two companies have offered 14.99 million and 11.70 million respectively. But is not certain whether the two are still in the race.
Meanwhile, Exol justified its offer by pointing to the quality of SAMIR’s products. The refinery’s semi-finished gasoline means that the company could not bid any higher than its current offer, Saouabi pointed out.
An unending tale of troubles
Since a Casablanca court declared it bankrupt in 216 and ruled that its assets be liquidated, SAMIR has been embroiled in a series of controversies. In addition to the dearth of interest the on-sale refinery has generated among potential buyers, there has been a tense arm twisting between Moroccan authorities and a
Saudi investor over the origins of the refinery’s troubles.
Successive court rulings have established that SAMIR sank because of failed management. However, Saudi billionaire Sheikh Al Amoudi, one of the refinery’s principal shareholders, has been adamant that Moroccan authorities are at fault for the company’s failure.
Most recently, the Saudi billionaire, who had filed a complaint against Morocco with the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in early 2018, claimed that the North African country owed him $1.5 billion as compensation for precipitating SAMIR’s downfall.
With the ongoing Morocco-Al Amoudi tussle and the perceived hesitation among investors to acquire SAMIR, the refinery may yet be at the center of further hot debates.