Sonara holds 83.2% of public enterprises’ external debt as of September 2023

Four public enterprises held a combined debt of FCFA511 billion with external creditors as of September 30, 2023, according to figures reported by the national sinking fund (CAA).

“This debt is up 1.4% on the previous month and 1.0% quarter-on-quarter, compared with a year-on-year fall of 8.2%,” says CAA. The national refinery corporation Sonara alone carried an outstanding amount of FCFA 425.5 billion from its foreign suppliers, representing 83.2% of the total outstanding debt. Compared with the previous month when the company’s outstanding external debt was FCFA418.6 billion, this marked an increase of FCFA6.9 billion.

The CAA’s document did not explain the reason for this surge. Sonara now stands as the most indebted public enterprise, ahead of the national airline Camair-Co (CFA 61.6 billion), the Port Authority of Douala (FCFA 12.1 billion), and Aéroports du Cameroun (FCFA 11.8 billion).

Following the fire that destroyed its facilities in Limbe (South-West) in May 2019, the nation’s sole oil refiner has faced challenges in meeting its commitments. Consequently, the company has accumulated a debt of FCFA 374 billion with crude oil and finished petroleum product traders and suppliers. On September 29, Sonara, under the guidance of the Ministry of Finance (Minfi), finalized a debt restructuring agreement with Swiss trader Trafigura, totaling FCFA 14.5 billion. This arrangement enables the company to settle its debt over ten years at a 5.5% interest rate.

Trafigura stands as the third trader, following Vitol and PSTV DMCC, with whom the Cameroonian government, committed to settling Sonara’s debts, has reached a solution. Agreements for repayment with Vitol and PSTV DMCC were signed on September 22, 2022, and January 26, 2023, respectively. Finance Minister Louis Paul Motaze had anticipated the completion of the traders’ debt restructuring by October 2023, including the finalization of agreements with traders Mercuria Energy Trading, Petra Energy, and Addax Energy. As of November 2, these agreements have not yet been concluded.

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