July 24, 2019 / 6:23 PM / 5 months ago

Algeria's state power firm to seek foreign loans to fund projects

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algeria’s state power utility Sonelgaz will seek foreign loans to finance its development plan, its chief executive said on Wednesday, becoming the first company in the North African country to look for funds abroad in decades.

OPEC member Algeria relies heavily on oil and gas, which account for 94% of total exports and 60% of the state budget.

The government has been trying to cut spending to cope with budget and trade deficits since crude oil prices fell sharply in mid-2014.

Subsidized electricity prices are very low in Algeria compared with neighboring countries, and Energy Minister Mohamed Arkab earlier this week said there was no plan to raise prices.

Algeria subsidizes almost everything, from basic foodstuffs to fuel and medicine, with the aim of avoiding social unrest in the country which has been shaken by protests since early this year demanding the removal of the ruling elite.

“External debt is an option, which is being examined in order to find the most comfortable and least restrictive conditions,” Sonelgaz CEO Chahar Boulakhras told a news conference.

“Foreign indebtedness becomes a necessity. We need funding for our development plans”.

He said the plans were aimed at meeting consumption levels in the future amid increasing domestic demand in the country of 43 million people.

The money sought by Sonelgaz will go mainly to renewable projects.

“The massive introduction of renewable energies is a priority, with a particular focus on solar energy,” Boulakhras said.

Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Editing by Mark Potter

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