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Total’s Lenders Weigh Mozambique Gas Restart After Three-Year Halt

Total’s Lenders Weigh Mozambique Gas Restart After Three-Year Halt

Lenders to TotalEnergies SE’s Mozambique liquefied natural gas project are weighing the release of billions of dollars in funding as the company plans to resume construction three years after development was halted by Islamist insurgent attacks.

The planned onshore facility designed to export the southern African nation’s major gas discoveries attracted the biggest project financing yet seen in Africa. That was before Islamic State-linked militant attacks near the site in 2021 prompted Total to evacuate its personnel and declare force majeure.

a d v e r t i s e m e n t

The US Export-Import Bank, which committed the biggest share of $4.7 billion in financing — and other lenders that comprise a total of about $15 billion in debt — are conducting assessments on reactivating the funding, they said. TotalEnergies Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanne said last month that the company has made progress with suppliers and contractors on achieving a mid-year restart. He’d previously targeted the end of 2023. 

“Exim continues to work with its financing partners and borrowers to conduct due diligence for the Mozambique LNG project in connection with proposed projects and restart amendments to the finance documents,” the US Eximbank said in a response to questions. It hasn’t made disbursements because of the force-majeure status.

a d v e r t i s e m e n t

The assessment of whether to resume financing coincides with a decision by the Biden administration in January to pause approval of new liquefied natural gas export licenses, in recognition that the climate impact from the fossil fuel needs to be reassessed. The US Eximbank’s loan to the Mozambique project was initially provided in 2020, during the administration of former President Donald Trump.

Exim said it seeks to align with Biden’s climate agenda “while still complying with Exim’s statutory requirements, including the charter prohibition against discrimination based solely on industry, sector or business, and its mission to support US jobs,” adding that any change to its charter requires congressional action.  

Resurgent Violence

While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent Europe on a scramble for alternative energy supplies that boosted interest in upcoming LNG production, projects in nations across Africa are still susceptible to a range of issues including political instability and construction delays. Mozambique has the added obstacle of an insurgency that’s become subdued by armed forces, though the Islamist fighters still carry out sporadic deadly raids.

A string of attacks since December has marked a resurgence in violence after Mozambican and regional forces last year announced major gains in the six-year conflict that’s left almost 5,000 people dead. The deadliest recent raid was about 136 kilometers (85 miles) south of the LNG project, and subsequent attacks have been much further away.

Since the latest outbreak of violence and attacks on civilians at the beginning of February, more than 70,000 people have been forcibly displaced in Cabo Delgado, the United Nations Refugee Agency said in a statement Friday.

Atradius Dutch State Business, the Amsterdam-based Dutch export-credit agency that’s committed $1 billion to Mozambique LNG, said it’s also assessing the situation. “Due diligence is currently ongoing to assess whether we can allow drawdowns under the loan,” it said.

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Mozambican Finance Minister Max Tonela had in October called on the export-credit agencies involved to re-commit to the financing by the end of last year.

Both US Eximbank and Atradius declined to provide a timeline on when their assessments would be concluded. 

The US lender has been long familiar with the insurgency that ultimately suspended the project. Its own analysis flagged security risks even before the loan was approved.

On the continued violence, Exim said all transactions “undergo rigorous due diligence according to the agency’s statutory and policy requirements, including a feasibility review and alignment with Exim’s financial, technical, environmental, and social due-diligence procedures and guidelines.”

Bloomberg

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