Sonatrach Wins $240mn Tax Case against Repsol
Algerian state Sonatrach has recently won an “important victory” in an international arbitration case against Spanish producer Repsol and two South Korean partners Samsung and SK Innovation over a windfall profits tax in Algeria.
Repsol, Samsung and SK Innovation launched the arbitration claim in September 2013, claiming $240mn compensation from Sonatrach for alleged violations of their production-sharing contract (PSC) and for reimbursement of the tax (tax on exceptional profits, or TPE) implemented in 2006.
In a statement, Sonatrach's lawyers Shearman & Sterling said that the ICC arbitration tribunal in Geneva, in its October 9 ruling, rejected the claims by three companies regarding the PSC and implementation of the tax, meaning that Sonatrach will not have to pay out $240mn.
The TPE windfall tax has been applied by Algeria retroactively since 2006 whenever prices top the equivalent of $50/barrel. In addition 90% of the legal costs were awarded against the three companies.
Repsol told NGW October 19 that the arbitration tribunal in Geneva conceded items that add up to $800,000, namely workover costs at their Issouane PSC. The Spanish firm acknowledged that legal costs of $2.5mn must be paid by it and its Korean partners, with Repsol’s net share being 70% of that.
Sonatrach announced its win in a press release on October 16 but the statement by its law firm provided much more detail about the case.
It is also represented by Shearman & Sterling in a separate and ongoing case in Geneva, this time solely about the TPE. In that case Repsol and Total made an arbitration referral against Sonatrach in May 2016 relating to application of the TPE tax in respect of their Tin Fouye Tabenkort (TFT) PSC. Shearman & Sterling has said that over $400mn is at stake. Repsol and Total have not publicly discussed their claims.
In 2009 Repsol and Spanish partner Gas Natural lost an unrelated arbitration case against Sonatrach relating to their cancellation of the Gassi Touil project; the Spanish duo had claimed $3.6bn.
Sonatrach meanwhile signed a memo of understanding with Maersk Oil on October 18, reported state news agency APS. Maersk has a small non-operated stake in the El Merk oilfield that started production in 2013. Maersk has been present in Algeria since 1990.