Maurel & Prom Gabon strike may spread: Update
Adds background to dispute and Gabon M&A overview
London, 27 February (Argus) — A strike at Maurel & Prom's crude producing operations in Gabon could spread to the whole oil sector after police forces removed oil workers forcefully from the firm's Onal field, according to trade union Onep.
The west African country's oil workers unions met yesterday and decided that "after the physical assault of Maurel & Prom's workers at the Onal site by the defence and security forces on 23 February", they will consult with oil workers in the country on whether to stage a sector-wide strike. A general assembly will take place today and tomorrow throughout oil sites in Gabon.
According Onep, oil workers in Gabon are ready to strike and a warning could be issued this week or at the start of next week at the latest.
The Maurel & Prom strike started on 22 February and has shut in production at the 28,000 b/d Onal field, the union said. Onep said production remained at a halt since police removed striking workers from the Onal field and despite Maurel & Prom's attempt to resume output.
Maurel & Prom has operations in 12 countries but most of its output is from Gabon. Total production at the company's Gabon fields was just below 28,000 b/d in last year's fourth quarter, a period that included the October strike. The firm declined to comment on the ongoing strike. According to documents published by Onep, the firm is taking the union to court on the ground that the strike is not valid as workers started it before the end of the negotiations.
The dispute started over the transfer of ownership to Indonesian state-owned oil company Pertamina, when workers asked for a bonus to be paid retroactively among other demands.
Pertamina gained control in the upstream independent firm in January after increasing its stake in the firm to 64.5pc, from 24.5pc in August last year. Pertamina now owns 72.5pc of Maurel & Prom's share capital and 71.39pc of the company's voting rights following the reopening of the tender offer in February.
A sticking point of the 13-day strike at Shell Gabon in January was also the payment of a bonus to employees ahead of the sale of the firm's onshore assets to a potential buyer that has not been named but could be investment firm Carlyle. Anglo-French independent Perenco Energy was also interested in Shell's assets, but Carlyle has emerged as the frontrunner.
Perenco has made developing mature fields in a lower price environment its specialty and today agreed to buy Total's stakes in 12 mature oil fields and a pipeline in Gabon for $350mn.
Opec member Gabon produced some 200,000 b/d in January.