Turkish weekly - Energy, an Ankara-based oil firm with vast investments in northern Iraq, announced yesterday that it has obtained an exploration license for Somaliland, the self-declared East African country not formally recognized by the international community.
“Because of its similarities with the geographical structure of the Arab peninsula, it is strongly predicted that Somaliland, a region Genel Energy prioritizes for its investment program, has important oil and coal assets,” Genel said in a press release on Oct. 29.
The company solidified its presence in northern Iraq with the acquisitions of the Bina Bawi and Miran fields this year.
$1 billion in cash
The London-listed oil explorer holds some $1 billion in cash for new investments according to the statement, which did not elaborate on the finances of the Somaliland project. It added that the company will make use of its experience working in northern Iraq in exploring the new field, which is about half the size of the Iraqi project.
The company also holds licenses for exploration in Malta and the Ivory Coast.
The autonomous region of Somaliland is not a safe haven due to security concerns and ongoing unrest in central Somalia. Yet Genel quoted a recent World Bank report declaring the region suitable for private sector structuring despite the problems in its vicinity.
The region declared its independence in 1991 following a civil war in the 1980s. The international community sees the land as an autonomous region while President Ahmed Muhammed Silanyo, elected in 2010, rules the country.
Turkey is among the main international supporters of both Somalia and Somaliland. Solamiland Foreign Minister Muhammad A. Omar was also present at the second Somalia Conference in Istanbul in May, where he met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Genel said.
The merger process between Genel – the Turkish company owned by Mehmet Emin Karamehmet – and Vallares – a fund founded by former BP chief executive Tony Hayward, British financier Nat Rothschild, banker Julian Metherell and investment manager Tom Daniel – was completed in September 2011, establishing Genel Energy International Limited. The company had an initial $2 billion reserve when its investments began in northern Iraq, controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).