Friday, 28 August 2015

A Vertically Integrated GNPC Will Dominate West Africa's Oil Industry's Downstream Sector

Some of those who seek the transfer of national assets  into private hands,  for ideological reasons, have started a subtle campaign, in the Ghanaian media - to enable them acquire shares in the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) through an IPO.

The ADB IPO is said to be their torch-of-convenience. It is  testing the waters for the neo-liberals who are neocolonialism's fifth-columnists in our homeland Ghana.

If Ghanaians accept the ADB IPO wholeheartedly, it will empower yet another group of well-connected self-seekers - who, like the scoundrels allegedly guilty of looting the ADB, by asset-stripping it - have also been entrusted with a state-owned company, built with the blood, sweat and tears of Ghanaian workers: the GNPC.

Like the politically well-connected rogues at the  ADB, they too see their appointments as opportunities to enrich themselves -  by engaging in, and benefitting personally, from the nation-wrecking phenomenon of asset-stripping state-owned companies, during their tenures.

Their aim, according to some of the GNPC's critcs,  is to get the government to sell shares in the company on the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) - ostensibly as a means of raising funds for the company: but in reality to help its management  get round the strict controls imposed on the company by law, by getting their foreign collaboraters to buy a 25% stake in it.

In principle, selling some of the government's shares in state-owned entities, whiles the state still retains significant stakes in them, makes perfect sense in today's Ghana - as it enables them raise interest-free funds to expand their operations. Those shares must be sold to only Ghanaian citizens and wholly-owned Ghanaian companies.

However, the GNPC is different. Ghana's oil and gas deposits, should be regarded  literally as depleting assets that ought to belong to all Ghanaians, and seen as  gifts from Providence, to enable our nation to have the wherewithal to develop and modernise its infrastructure at a faster rate - and provide cash for a portfolio of investments by a sovereign wealth fund for Ghana that will also benefit future generations of our people.

If that collective viewpoint works for Norway, it should work for Ghana too - which is why that particular state-owned entity cannot be transferred into private hands.

What the GNPC actually needs, is vertical integration, not private ownership. That will make it an attractive proposition for companies willing to sign technical services contracts to participate in its projects as its technical services partners who fund exploration and production activities.

From the position of strength, as a vertically integrated oil company, could the GNPC not enable Ghana to replicate its own versions of the technical services agreements governing  Iraq's giant Rumaila oilfields here too, I ask?

 We can then end for good, signing what are said to be some of the world's  worst oil agreements - and finally get better value from our oil and gas deposits.

The GNPC is a truly vital strategic national asset, which should not be privatised, under any circumstances.

And if only the best qualified Ghanaians - instead of the ethically-challenged cronies of the political party in power at any given point in time - are chosen to manage it, that will ensure that corporate good governance principles underpin the entirety of the company's  operations.

As benchmark crude oil prices continue to remain low - and are forecast to remain low for some time, as China's economy slows down, as does the US economy -  would it not benefit our nation, and help it generate more foreign currency, if the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), the Ghana Oil Company Limited (GOIL) and the  Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company Limited (BOST),  become  subsidiaries of the GNPC? Naturally, GOIL shares in private hands will be bought back by the company.

If that were to happen, would the prices at which the GNPC's refined products, produced by TOR, are sold across West Africa, in GOIL petrol filling stations in sister nations across the subregion,  not help it boost its profits - and enable Ghana to enhance the value of its oil and gas deposits yet further?

Is vertical integration not therefore a creative form of hedging, for the GNPC, in an era of low oil prices  - since the prices of  refined petroleum products have been holding their own since the oil price collapsed?

And if it focuses on gas production during the downturn, it will be able to ride out the period of low oil prices, and still emerge in robust form when prices pick up again - since the power sector has a voracious appetite for the gas the Ghana National Gas Company Limited (GNGC) produces.

What should concern us, above all, is to ensure that what happened to Petrobras, Brazil's national oil company, does not happen to the GNPC too. We must prevent a culture of high-level corruption from destroying the company.

Petrobras was consistently and systematically looted over the years by Brazil's largest engineering companies - which bribed Petrobras executives and Brazilian politicians to enable them overcharge Petrobras in inflated contracts.

Whiles some of  Brazil's wealthiest and most powerful businessmen have been prosecuted and jailed for overcharging Petrobras, and bribing some of its executives, others are still in the process of being prosecuted too.

We should discourage the GNPC from engaging in activities such as its sponsorship of the Black Stars, Ghana's senior national soccer team - because they breed corruption.

An example being the opaque Tanink Motors 30 Jeep 4x4 SUV deal for the Black Stars - which many in Ghana want an official denial to be issued by the  GNPC to assure Ghanaians that no GNPC cash - not even a pesewa -  was used to pay Tanink Motors for: as 'sponsorship' money for vehicles that Tanink Motors itself had promised the Black Stars, in any case.

The GNPC should restrict itself to sponsoring only exceptionally brilliant students and Chairs of science and technology faculties in Ghana's tertiary institutions as its CSR projects  - and leave sponsorship of the Black Stars to private companies that have money to burn: and feel they need brand enhancement.

Since Kasepreko desires to turn itself into a globally recognised brand, would it not benefit from sponsoring the Black Stars, one wonders? And because it is a company underpinned by corporate good governance principles, Kasepreko would ensure that its sponsorship money actually benefits Ghanaian soccer - not the greedy and sly folk who now run soccer in Ghana,

The GNPC does not need brand enhancement - the madness that leads to the renting of expensive office and residential accommodation, by loss-making state-owned entities, to impress the world, and enrich the cronies of their executives.

Does Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway Inc not operate from a modest suit of offices as its headquarters in an unremarkable building, Kiewit Tower? But does Buffet still not impress the world with his astuteness and sagacity?

The GNPC must remain focused on its core activities and plan for vertical integration - as a hedge against low oil prices and to enable it expand its business (with the help of Ecobank) by selling refined products across West Africa in GOIL petrol stations.

Will that not help Ghana to improve its balance of trade - and help strengthen its much-weakened currency too?

If Chevron's bottom line is benefitting from vertical integration that generates profits from its downstream businesses, in an era of low oil prices, so will it be the case, for a vertically integrated GNPC, too.

Alas, unfortunately, however, such a bold move is unlikely to happen under either a National Democratic Congress or New Patriotic Party government - as they are both beholden to the very vested interests (both local and foreign) that hold our nation back through shady deals that are detrimental to the national interest and the welfare of the Ghanaian people.

However, since Nkrumahists believe passionately in promoting Ghanaian businesses across Africa  (be they publicly-owned or privately-owned),  God willing, under a CPP government, led by a President Paa Kwesi  Nduom and Vice President Samia Yaaba Nkrumah, a vertically integrated GNPC will become a reality - and come to dominate the oil and gas industry's downstream sector across the West African common market. Amen.

Post a Comment