Algeria to block sale of assets to Total-state media

FILE PHOTO: The logo of the state energy company Sonatrach is pictured at the headquarters in Algiers, Algeria November 20, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algeria's state-owned Sonatrach will block Occidental Petroleum's OXY.N deal to sell Anadarko assets in Algeria to Total, Algeria's energy minister told state news agency APS on Wednesday.

Mohamed Arkab said the deal, part of a wider sale of Anadarko assets to Total after its acquisition by Occidental this year, was “incompatible” with Algerian legislation.

Sonatrach would implement its “pre-emption right” to block the deal, Arkab told APS.

Occidental bought Andarko Petroleum this year. As part of the deal it agreed to sell Anadarko’s assets in Algeria, Ghana, Mozambique and South Africa to Total for $8.8 billion.

Its Algerian assets had production of around 260,000 barrels a day, about a quarter of the North African country’s total crude output.

Algeria’s parliament has passed a new energy law that encourages international investment in its oil and gas sector while keeping a bar on majority foreign ownership of hydrocarbons projects.

The law is aimed at boosting production of oil and gas, a key source of revenue, which has been falling. However, any involvement in the sector by former colonial power France is controversial in Algeria.

Protesters who have been demonstrating in huge numbers since February for a change in the ruling hierarchy have also marched against the new energy law and chanted slogans opposing Total’s involvement in Algeria.

Reporting by Lamine Chikhi, Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Louise Heavens and Elaine Hardcastle