EconSource: Egypt, Italy to Sign MOUs on Energy Deals; Eni Discovers Gas Reserves in Nile Delta

Egypt’s Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab will travel to Italy Wednesday for a three-day visit that will see him signing memorandum of understanding (MOUs) on prospective electricity, power and oil deals. Mahlab will meet with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, government officials and fifteen top businessmen in Italy, said Industry and International Trade Minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour in a statement reported by state news agency MENA Sunday. In addition to signing the MOUs, Mahlab is expected to start procedures between the Egyptian and Italian governments for building a new center for furniture production in Damietta—a city on the Nile Delta known for furniture making. Meanwhile, Italy’s Eni has discovered gas reserves of up to 15 billion cubic meters in Egypt’s Nile Delta region, with production set to start in two months, the Egyptian oil ministry said on Monday. The discovery was made in Western Abu Madi, where Eni holds 75 percent of exploration rights through an Egyptian subsidiary. The oil ministry signed a $2 billion energy deal with Eni in June that for four years of exploration activities in the Sinai, Nile Delta, Suez and Port Said. [Ahram Online, SIS, 7/19/2015]

Saudi crude oil exports fall to lowest in five months in May
Saudi Arabia’s crude oil exports fell to their lowest in five months in May despite near record production. Saudi Arabia shipped 6.935 million barrels per day (bpd) on average in May, down from 7.737 million bpd in April and the lowest since December, official data showed on Sunday. As crude exports slide, Saudi Arabia is offering customers millions of barrels of diesel from new refineries as it supplies more refined oil products. This could potentially trigger a price war with Asian competitors as Saudi exports feed into a glut. Saudi Arabia’s massive refineries are now processing more of its crude at home. Domestic refineries processed 2.423 million bpd in May, up 9 percent from 2.224 million bpd a month earlier. [Reuters, Bloomberg, 7/20/2015]

Slowing economic growth weighs on Bahrain’s banking sector
A slowdown in economic growth due to lower oil prices will weigh on funding for Bahrain’s banking sector over the coming twelve to eighteen months. However, strong liquidity and capital buffers will continue to provide banks the financial flexibility to adapt to these conditions, rating agency Moody’s has said. Analysts at Moody’s expect slower economic growth of 2.7 percent in 2015, from 4.5 percent in 2014, as Bahrain as lowers oil prices and government spending. The rating agency recently changed its outlook on Bahrain’s banking system to negative from stable. Meanwhile, Bahrain’s inflation fell to 1.7 percent year on year in June. [Gulf News, 7/19/2015]

Former head of Libyan investment authority says funds should remain frozen
AbdulMagid Breish, former leader of Libya’s sovereign wealth fund, warned on Friday that conditions are not right to start unfreezing and managing $67 billion worth of assets.  The fund is at the center of a bitter power struggle even as its staff is trying to trace those responsible for billions of dollars of missing money. Breish said any unfreezing of Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) assets could jeopardize the funds, as rival governments and factions on the ground scramble for cash. Breish said there is around $300 million in foreign bank accounts that the LIA can access. Another 10 billion Libyan dinars are on deposit with local banks. However, he insisted that it is impossible under current law for any government or institution to use that money. [Reuters, 7/17/2015]

Also of interest
Saudi GDP revised upward to 3.3 percent in 2015 | Saudi Gazette
Saudi finances weaken as foreign exchange reserves slide | Gulf News
Return of Iranian oil might cause more tensions in OPEC | AFP
Foreign investors try to tap into Iran | Reuters
Is ISIS running out of oil? (analysis) | Al Jazeera
Egypt’s EGAS tenders for 45 cargoes of LNG for 2015-16 shipment | Reuters
Libya’s El Feel oil field remains closed over salary disputes | Libya Monitor (subscription)