By Farah Halime, Rebel Economy
Egypt’s state oil company, the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation, is in big trouble.
It has racked up billions of dollars of debt in the last decade with some estimating its dues to banks and oil companies is as high as $20 billion.
The magnitude of EGPC’s debts is such that it would be rare to find an oil company in Egypt which is not owed money. The growing debt pile highlights the government’s struggle to meet its rising energy bills while trying to keep subsidised prices to avoid public unrest.
This Reuters story describes the problem in a nutshell:
“Egypt has been delaying payments to firms producing oil and gas on its territory as it has struggled with dwindling currency reserves, rising food bills and sliding tourism revenues since the 2011 revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak.
Most oil firms hope to recoup the debts in full, but they acknowledge it could take years. While they are still planning to invest in new projects in Egypt that will help it avoid an energy meltdown, the debt situation remains a challenge.
The government’s delay in paying its debts to oil and gas producers could hold back investment in the sector and potentially endanger Egypt’s energy security.”
But exactly how many companies have been impacted and what kind of money are we really talking about?
This spreadsheet, acquired by Rebel Economy from an investment bank which has major interests in Egypt’s energy, lists the debts owed to no less than 42 companies for oil and gas exploration.
The spreadsheet shows that while a number of small companies are owed money, several large energy companies have achieved special repayment deals with the government.
Of the companies listed, Italy’s ENI agreed to allow EGPC to delay on a $100 million payment, the UK’s BP agreed to defer $600 million, and BG Group also of the UK, $589.8 million.
The spreadsheet ends January 2012, but it is one of the clearest barometers of the scale of EGPC’s debt to oil companies that has been made public. Even this document is seen as portraying a conservative total debt figure of only $3.44 billion when actual debts to oil firms are estimated to be at least $5 billion.
Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg.
EGPC’s debts to banks, to countries that are lending the country fuel at sometimes preferential rates, and even debts to other ministries (the finance ministry has injected billions of dollars to the electricity ministry) set a frightening precedent for what Egypt is facing today.
With Egypt’s inefficient and costly energy subsidy system at the core, this is yet another example of why the country must take long-term steps to reform the system or be forever in debt to others.
Farah is a business journalist and founder of Rebel Economy, a blog focused on how regional economies are rebuilding after the Arab Spring.
This post originally appeared on Rebel Economy.