Gabon Secures Future with Strategic Assala Energy Acquisition

National Sovereignty Asserted as Gabon Oil Co. Finalizes Deal with Carlyle

by Ikeoluwa Juliana Ogungbangbe
Gabon Assala Energy acquisition

In a move that reinforces national sovereignty over its natural resources, Gabon has successfully concluded the acquisition of a major stake in Assala Energy, signaling a shift in the dynamics of its energy sector. The acquisition, facilitated by Gabon Oil Co. (GOC), sees the country taking a 75% share in Assala, marking a significant milestone in Gabon’s effort to exert greater control over its oil and gas industry.

The agreement was formalized in a ceremony attended by Gabon President Brice Oligui Nguema on February 15, following his New Year’s announcement of the government’s intention to purchase Assala. The exact timeline for the transaction’s closure remains undisclosed, but the commitment to the deal was set in motion on November 25, 2023, reflecting the government’s determination to reclaim its stake in the exploitation of its natural resources.

President Nguema emphasized that the acquisition was an exercise of Gabon’s sovereign rights, comparable to actions taken by other nations to manage their resources. He highlighted the strategic importance of the deal in retaining more value from Gabon’s resources, boosting revenues, and demonstrating the country’s ability to govern its assets independently. Moreover, the president pointed out the potential for job creation in the sector and increased control over oil sales prices as key benefits of the transaction.

The signing event saw GOC’s managing director and Bob Maguire from Carlyle International Energy Partners (CIEP), the previous owner of Assala, finalizing the deal. Minister of Petroleum Marcel Abeke underscored the significance of the acquisition, noting how expatriates had long dominated Gabon’s oil sector. The establishment of GOC and its involvement in larger projects such as Assala marks a concerted effort to enhance local influence and production capabilities within the industry.

While financing for the deal has yet to be confirmed, entities like Gunvor and Vitol have been mentioned as potential backers, indicating international support for Gabon’s strategic move. Assala stands as the second-largest producer in Gabon, with extensive operations including eight fields, a pipeline network, and an export terminal at Gamba. This acquisition positions GOC to play a more substantial role in the country’s oil production and economic development.

The deal’s conclusion has prompted a response from Maurel et Prom, the French company that had previously agreed to purchase Assala for $730 million in August 2023, the same month President Nguema took office. Acknowledging the precedence of GOC’s agreement with Carlyle, Maurel expressed its continued commitment to being a reliable partner in Gabon, despite the shift in acquisition plans.

As Gabon embarks on this new chapter in its energy sector, the acquisition of Assala Energy by GOC represents a bold assertion of national sovereignty and a strategic move towards greater self-reliance and economic empowerment. This development not only reshapes Gabon’s role in the global energy market but also sets a precedent for how countries can manage and benefit from their natural resources.

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