Congo Republic aims to reach a deal with energy traders Glencore and Trafigura to restructure a $1.7 billion debt before a meeting with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in April, the head of the national oil company, told Reuters.
Maixent Raoul Ominga, director general of state-owned SNPC, said lawyers for Congo Republic were working with representatives of Glencore and Trafigura to get all the parties talking.
Glencore and Trafigura declined to comment.
“The government’s objective is to have an agreement with them before the next IMF review in April,” Ominga told Reuters in Paris, in the first public comments by a Congolese official on the efforts to get agreement.
Sources told Reuters in January talks between Congo Republic and the Swiss energy traders had broken down after the firms rejected a haircut on the debt.
The IMF agreed a $449 million, three-year lending programme in July – but only $45 million has been disbursed with other funds subject to semi-annual reviews.
A requirement for further disbursements is the restructuring of Congo’s oil-backed loans from the Swiss traders.
If they agree to a haircut – or accepting lower than market value for the assets that are collateral for the loans – Congo Republic would spend less on debt servicing.
The IMF has said it delayed submitting a 2019 year-end review to its executive board as it waits for Congo Republic to finalise a deal with the traders.
Ominga told Reuters the situation escalated in February when Glencore tried to recover its funds and sought to prevent the delivery of some Congo Republic crude cargoes.
Had Glencore succeeded, he said that would have blocked negotiations and paralysed the central African country, which is heavily indebted.
Ominga denied reports that Congo Republic had withheld all oil deliveries to Glencore since 2018.
But he said Congo Republic had suspended some cargoes at the end of last year, “with the aim of finding a solution on the restructuring”. Once a deal is reached, he said shipments would resume.