Kazakh oil company suspends shares

>>Max Petroleum is a prominent independent oil producer>>

MARCH 4 (The Conway Bulletin) — The collapse in oil prices forced Max Petroleum, a British-Kazakh oil and gas company, to suspend trading on the London AIM stock exchange.

In a statement, Max Petroleum said it was in negotiations to restructure its debt with Sberbank and other creditors.

“If current negotiations are unsuccessful, or if other events outside the control of the Company require that the Company ceases trading while such negotiations are ongoing, then the consequences will be negative for all stakeholders in the Company,” the company statement said.

Last month Max Petroleum squarely blamed the slump in global oil prices for its problems which wiped out profit margins and deterred potential investors.

The Max Petroleum’s troubles are a microcosm of the problems facing Kazakhstan-orientated companies trying to weather an economic downturn linked to the oil price drop and the turmoil in Russia’s sanction-hit economy.

Almaty-based confectionery plant Rakhat, which South Korea’s LOTTE bought in 2013/2014 in a multi-million dollar deal, also said that it had had to lay off 500 of its 3,800 workers. It blamed unfair competition from cheaper Russian sweets.

Once feted as one of Kazakhstan’s most famous companies outside the extractive industries, Rakhat is now trying to eke its way out of the economic storm — just like most other Kazakh companies.

Max Petroleum, listed on the LSE since 2005, is a small Kazakhstan oil producer with an output of around 200,000 tonnes of oil a year.

In August 2014, AGR Energy, linked to the prominent Assaubayev family, made a deal to buy 51% of Max Petroleum for £37m ($62m), promising to embark on a significant investment to revitalise the company. The slump in oil prices, though, appears to have deterred AGR Energy from follow through with the deal and the promised investment.

>>This story was first published in issue 221 of The Conway Bulletin. For more information on how to subscribe, please click here

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