Scandal-ridden Trafigura sets sights on Sakunda

Global oil trader, Trafigura, is planning to take over the Zanu (PF)- connected fuel distributor Sakunda as part of a regional expansion campaign, reports Africa Confidential.

However, Victoria Dix, the Head of Media Relations for Puma Energy, which is Trafigura’s subsidiary in Southern Africa, could neither deny nor confirm the move to The Zimbabwean, saying, “We do not comment on potential acquisitions.”

Asked whether Trafigura had interests in investing in the Southern African region, Dix remained tight lipped, saying, “I can’t at this stage (disclose) but… will make sure that you receive our announcement.”

Trafigura’s deals in other countries have been fraught with scandals. The Nation in Kenya once reported about the company being embroiled in a dispute with the US government over oil allegedly smuggled out of Iraq. In June 2007, The Zambian Watchdog reported that Trafigura bought containers of crude oil that Sudan seized from its southern neighbour.

The same publication also reported that Trafigura was fined close to £1 million for illegally exporting hazardous waste to West Africa.

Economic analyst Desmond Chigerwe said it was important for the ruling party to be prudent in its dealings, especially when it comes to companies trading in strategic commodities.

Trafigura’s takeover of Sakunda is said to be consolidating its grip on the fuel supply and distribution in Zimbabwe, and to cement its relationship with President Mugabe and the ruling party. Africa Confidential says the transaction has been done through Trafigura’s South African Subsidiary, Puma Energy Africa Holdings.

Sakunda, which was founded in 2005, is a leading player in the fuel sector and has grown to become a leading importer and supplier of fuel into Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia. The company was among the first locally owned companies to enter into the fuel sector soon after its liberalisation early 2000.

Zimbabwe does not have oil reserves and fuel constitute the biggest chunk of its imports. Lately fuel importation has been slightly reduced by the mandatory fuel blending with ethanol, a bio-fuel made from sugar cane. The ethanol is currently being supplied by two local companies, Green Fuel in Chisumbanje and Triangle Limited in the Lowveld

Fuel prices have risen by about 250 percent over the last decade, from $40 per barrel to about $100 per barrel.

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