Algeria: Toufik Hakkar appointed CEO of Sonatrach
Algerian oil group Sonatrach, which accounts for 98% of the country's foreign exchange earnings, appointed Toufik Hakkar, vice-president of business development and marketing, as CEO of the oil company on 5 February.
A longterm Sonatrach employee, Hakkar headed the working group responsible for drafting the new energy law, and replaces Kamel Eddine Chikhi, whose reign was short lived.
Chikhi, appointed on 18 November by the former head of government, Noureddine Bédoui, stepped down after the shortest term of any Sonatrach CEO.
Hakkar holds a doctorate in management and an engineering degree in oil economics and is the twelfth CEO of the state-owned hydrocarbon company since Abdelaziz Bouteflika came to power in 1999.
A street revolution ousted Bouteflika in April 2019.
Since the corruption scandal involving Sonatrach’s top management erupted in January 2010, the company’s image has been tarnished as much by the succession of corruption cases as by the shakiness of its senior management.
New hydrocarbon law
“Hakkar has the skills, experience, and profile to lead Sonatrach,” said a former CEO who wished to remain anonymous. “Let’s hope that the new authorities give him the time and room to work.”
In October 2019, Hakkar, together with the former CEO Chikhi, presented to the Economic Committee of the National Assembly the new hydrocarbon law, the adoption of which caused a public outcry.
Hakkar defended the law, explaining that the reasoning behind it was “based on purely economic principles and had no political dimension”.
Decline in exploration activity
He justified his position at the time, saying it was a response to the decline in prospecting activity worldwide due to the collapse of prices on the international and local markets and the low level of foreign investment in recent years.
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Hakkar told the committee that Sonatrach issued four calls for tenders for 67 prospecting permits, for which only 19 bids were received, of which 13 were selected. This indicated there was a need for to develop new offerings to attract and reassure foreign partners.
The decline in exploration activity means Algeria has exhausted 60% of its primary hydrocarbon reserves.
If matters don’t improve that could reach 83% by 2030.