China’s Sinopec Group has hired BNP Paribas to sell its oil business in Nigeria and Gabon, three people with knowledge of the matter said, as the state-owned oil giant pares back its presence in Africa.
Sinopec and other oil groups including China National Petroleum Corporation and CNOOC made large acquisitions between 2009 and 2013 with the help of low-cost loans from Chinese state-owned banks.
The hunt for overseas assets was intended to bulk up their energy reserves and meet future demand from China, the world’s second-largest economy.
But oil prices fell to about $27 a barrel in 2016 from more than $100 in 2014, making some of these investments unprofitable. Benchmark Brent Crude oil LCOc1 is now trading at more than $60.
Militants have also recently attacked oil and gas facilities in Nigeria, further discouraging Sinopec. China’s economy, which was growing strongly when the company expanded, has also slowed.
“Sinopec is trying to sever ties,” one of the people told Reuters. “It has hired BNP to sell (its) assets in Nigeria and Gabon.”
A Sinopec spokesman did not respond to requests for comment and a BNP Paribas spokeswoman declined to comment.
Sinopec spent $7.24 billion in 2009 for Switzerland-based Addax Petroleum, its largest ever foreign oil acquisition, to secure land in Nigeria, Gabon, Cameroon and Iraq that was licensed for extraction and exploration.
It offered considerable potential as commodity prices rose but bankers expect the Nigeria and Gabon assets to sell for less than $1 billion.
The sources said Sinopec was planning to sell Addax’s onshore and offshore oil and gas production sites in Nigeria and Gabon. Sinopec’s Cameroon operation would be its only remaining project in Africa.