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 5. TRADE  6. GULF



Jan 21 - 27, 2002

Qatar asked to provide concessions on gas prices

Pakistan has asked Qatar to provide certain concessions and security on supply and prices of gas under the $3.2 billion Qatar-Pakistan pipeline project.

Petroleum Minister Usman Aminuddin said this at a news conference on Wednesday after returning from a week-long visit to UAE and Qatar.

He said that Pakistan's petroleum sector received $962 million direct investment during 2000-01, excluding the commitment of another $480 million in white oil pipeline project.

The minister said he held meetings with Qatari prime minister besides oil ministers of Abu Dhabi and Qatar and invited them to visit Pakistan. Both the oil ministers would be visiting Pakistan shortly, he said.

Mr Aminuddin said that Interstate Gas Company (IGC) had been established in Pakistan to take care of the gas import plans and assess domestic demand and supply position. The IGC has subsequently hired Hagler & Baily, a consultant firm, to prepare a study on this subject, he said.

The Sharjah-based Crescent Petroleum had submitted a draft agreement to Islamabad in July last to lay 1,610-km-long Qatar-Pakistan gas pipeline. Pakistan and Crescent Petroleum signed a revised memorandum of understanding last year for laying the 44-inch dia pipeline offshore along the Iran-Pakistan coastal line up to Jiwani to transport 1.6 BCF (billion cubic feet) natural gas.

Under the MoU, Crescent Petroleum was required to submit a formal proposal before July 2001, to the petroleum ministry as it indicated a gas offtake of 1000 MMCFD (million cubic feet per day) from the year 2005 onwards.

The consortium of Crescent, Total, Trans-Canada Pipelines Limited and Brown & Roots International had failed in mid-90s to sign a formal agreement with Pakistan due to a deadlock with Qatar Gas Petroleum Corporation (QGPC) over gas pricing.

US likely to offer $600m grant

Pakistan is likely to be offered another $600 million cash-in-grant by the United States to further help improve Islamabad's foreign exchange reserves position.

Also, Germany, United Kingdom and Norway were considering converting their $500 million debt into social funding through swap.

US Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Alan P. Larson held an hour-long meeting with Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz on Wednesday and assured him of new cash-in-grant along with additional market access to Pakistani goods in the United States.

$994m current account surplus

Pakistan earned a current account surplus of $994 million in the first five months of this fiscal year thanks largely to a higher home remittances and a $600 million US aid.

Government sources said that the country booked $994 million current account surplus during July-November 2001 as home remittances jumped to $789 million: In July-November 2000 Pakistan had seen a current account deficit of $437 million with home remittances at $535 million.

Musharraf assures

President Gen Pervez Musharraf has assured the business community that interest rates of the banks will shortly be reduced to help attract private investment.

The assurance was given at a meeting with 48 leading businessmen on Thursday, official sources said. He listened to their various demands specially lowering the mark-up rates of the banks.

SBP to stop $ buying from kerb

The State Bank of Pakistan will stop purchases for its foreign exchange needs from the kerb market from July 1, sources said. The buying and selling of forex by the SBP will be restricted to interbank market from July and, these sources revealed, that it would not even buy from the exchange companies which are expected to start operation from next fiscal year.

S&P affirms Pakistan rating

Rating affirmed by Standard & Poor's Wednesday on Pakistan has reduced the risk of selected default on the government's rated debt owed to private creditors.

According to Standard and Poor's, Pakistan's foreign currency ratings are 'B-Stable/B' and local currency ratings are 'B+/Stable/B'.

Oman gives $3.3m

Oman has provided $3.3 million funds to Pakistan to create IT chair for higher education, research and development in the field of information technology, Minister for Science and Technology Prof Attaur Rehman told reporters on Tuesday.

The grant was announced by King Sultan Qaboos during his visit to Pakistan last year.

Petroleum prices raised

The Oil Companies Advisory Committee (OCAC) on Tuesday raised prices of petroleum products, ranging from 16 paisa to 60 paisa per litre. The new prices will be effective from January 16 to 31.

Buyers will now pay 20 paisa more to buy petrol at Rs29.79 from 29.59 per litre, while the price of diesel has been increased to Rs15.11 from Rs14.47 per litre.

The new price of HOBC is Rs33.99 as compared to Rs33.79 per litre, while kerosene oil will now cost Rs14.48 from Rs13.98 per litre. Light diesel oil (LDO) will now be sold at Rs12.47 from Rs12.31 per litre. The new price of JP-4 and JP-1 have been fixed at Rs13.86 and Rs10.62 from Rs13.52 and Rs10.16 per litre, respectively.

OGDCL profit improves by 79pc

The Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) has posted a pre-tax profit of Rs23.23 billion during financial year 2000-01 showing an increase of 79 per cent over the last year.

The statement of accounts of the company was approved by its board of directors early this month. The company also earned an after-tax profit of Rs16.5 billion while the earning per share has increase by 53 per cent of the share value.