Commodities trader Glencore and Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund are together buying a 19.5% stake in Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil company, the Kremlin has announced.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “It is the largest privatization deal, the largest sale and acquisition in the global oil and gas sector in 2016.”
The surprise move sees Glencore and Qatar paying $11.3 billion for the stake in Rosneft, where BP already owns 19.75%.
However, the state will keep the controlling stake.
The long-planned sale is part of the Russian government’s efforts to sell some state assets to help balance the budget amid a two-year recession caused by a drop in global oil prices and Western sanctions.
Image source kremlin.ru
A deadline for the sale was missed, and speculation grew that Rosneft was struggling to find a buyer.
The deal also marks a turnaround for London-listed Glencore, which had seen a collapse in its share price amid a plan to sell assets and cut its huge debts.
Glencore’s shares have rebounded this year. The Qatar Investment Authority is one of the biggest investors in Glencore.
Speaking at a TV meeting with Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, Vladimir Putin noted that the deal follows a rally in global oil prices after OPEC’s decision to cut production.
Russia, although not a member of OPEC, has agreed to cut its output in line with the cartel, and will attend a meeting with its member countries on December 10 to discuss specific details.
Igor Sechin said that Glencore and the Qatari fund will form a consortium and have equal stakes. He added that Rosneft had conducted talks with more than 30 potential bidders before striking the deal.
It had been thought that the US and EU sanctions imposed on Russia following the Ukraine conflict would deter huge investment in Russia, although companies were not explicitly prohibited from participating in the Rosneft sale.
Donald Trump’s election as US president has, however, raised speculation of a thaw in relations with Moscow.
In a statement, Glencore said that it would finance part of the deal by putting up €300 million of its own equity, with the rest financed by banks and by the Qatari sovereign fund. QIA had yet to make a statement.
Glencore stands to benefit by gaining access to Rosneft’s crude output, while Qatar will further establish itself as a major investor in some of the world’s biggest businesses.
Oil prices have dropped sharply after a meeting of oil producers in Qatar failed to agree a cap on output.
Brent crude fell 7% at one point, but then recovered slightly to stand down $1.87, or 4.3%, at $41.23 a barrel.
The meeting was attended by most members of oil producers’ group OPEC, including Saudi Arabia, but not Iran.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest exporter, had been prepared to freeze output if all OPEC members had agreed.
However, Iran is continuing to increase output following the lifting of sanctions against it.
“As we’re not going to sign anything, and as we’re not part of the decision to freeze output, we ultimately decided it was not necessary to send a representative,” the Iranian government said.
After hours of talks in Qatar, energy minister Mohammed bin Saleh al-Sada said that the oil producers needed “more time”.
Mohammed bin Saleh al-Sada told reporters after the meeting: “We of course respect [Iran’s] position… The freeze could be more effective definitely if major producers, be it from OPEC members like Iran and others, as well as non-OPEC members, are included in the freeze.”
As well as the fall in Brent, the price of US crude oil fell nearly 7% before recovering some ground to stand $1.88 lower at $38.48 a barrel.
The meeting in Qatar was not formally an OPEC event, though most of the group’s members were represented.
OPEC has been slow to respond to the sharp fall in oil prices, which are still less than half the peak of $115 a barrel seen in June 2014.
Oil prices had risen in recent weeks, largely due to speculation that some major exporters would limit supply.
Texas student Ahmed Mohamed, who was arrested in Irving after his teacher mistook his homemade clock for a bomb, will move to Qatar with his family.
The 14-year-old Muslim boy has accepted a scholarship from the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, where he will study.
Ahmed Mohamed met President Barack Obama at the White House on October 19.
After being detained over the clock, Ahmed Mohamed’s case went viral on social media.
Some alleged the boy was unfairly treated because of his name and religious background. Officials in Irving Texas defended their decision, saying they were only concerned with the safety of students.
The Qatar Foundation is providing a full scholarship for his secondary and undergraduate education, according to a news release.
“Our family has been overwhelmed by the many offers of support we have received since the unfortunate incident of Ahmed’s arrest,” the Mohamed family said in the release.
“From the White House to Sudan, to Mecca, we have been welcomed by a variety of individuals, businesses and educational institutions.”
According to his family, Ahmed Mohamed will be enrolled in the Qatar Foundation’s “Young Innovators” program and his whole family will relocate with him to Qatar.
“Qatar was a cool place to visit. I loved the city of Doha because it’s so modern. I saw so many amazing schools there, many of them campuses of famous American universities,” said Ahmed Mohamed in the news release.
“The teachers were great. I think I will learn a lot and have fun too.”
Ahmed Mohamed withdrew from his Texas school shortly after the clock incident.
The boy was arrested after his teacher mistook his clock for a bomb, sparking outrage and the trending hashtag #StandWithAhmed.
In addition to being invited to the White House, Ahmed Mohamed received an outpouring of support from scientists, politicians and celebrities.
Egypt’s ousted President Mohamed Morsi is being charged with handing over national security documents to Qatar, the state prosecutor says.
Relations between Egypt and Qatar have been strained since the military ousted Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 after protests against his one-year rule.
Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group to which he belongs.
He faces several trials for charges including espionage. He has called the court illegitimate.
Several other Muslim Brotherhood leaders, as well as hundreds of ordinary members, have already been sentenced to death.
A crackdown by the authorities over the past year has seen more than 1,400 people killed and 16,000 others detained, rights activists say.
Mohamed Morsi is being charged with handing over Egypt’s security documents to Qatar
Mohamed Morsi will be tried for having “handed over to Qatari intelligence documents linked to national security… in exchange for $1 million”, the prosecutor said in a statement quoted by AFP news agency.
He was accused of passing on the files via Doha-based TV network Al Jazeera.
When the allegations emerged in August, Al Jazeera told Reuters: “Any information Al Jazeera receives is handled with the highest standard of journalistic ethics. We do not therefore comment on sources, or pass information to governments.”
Last June, a court in Egypt sentenced three Al Jazeera English journalists to between seven and 10 years in prison after convicting them charges including of spreading false news.
The three journalists have strenuously denied the charges and plan to appeal.
The court decision was criticized by journalists and human rights groups, who have campaigned for their release.
Republicans and Democrats have clashed over the deal to swap five Guantanamo Bay detainees for a Taliban-held soldier, with Republicans warning it could put American lives at risk.
Senator John McCain said the detainees, who were transferred to Qatar, were some of the “highest high-risk people”.
Afghanistan also attacked the deal, saying handing prisoners to a third country was against international law.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 28, was handed to US forces in Afghanistan on Saturday.
In an emotional address on Sunday, his father, Robert Bergdahl, said he was proud how far his son was willing to go to help the Afghan people, but warned that his recovery would take a long time.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was the only US soldier being held by the Taliban in Afghanistan
Robert Bergdahl said he and his wife had not yet spoken to their son, who is in a good condition and currently undergoing medical care at a US military hospital in Germany.
Several Republicans have spoken out against the deal, warning that it set a worrying precedent and amounted to negotiating with terrorists.
John McCain said the Taliban released were “possibly responsible for the deaths of thousands” and may have “the ability to re-enter the fight”, in comments to CBS TV.
Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, Mike Rogers, told CNN that Washington had “now set a price” for al-Qaeda ransom threats.
Chuck Hagel: “No shots were fired – it went as well as it could have.”
Republican representative Adam Kinzinger said he would celebrate Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s return but called the release of the Taliban men “shocking”.
Questions were raised over the legality of the deal, after the Obama administration did not give Congress sufficient notice about the transfer of the Taliban detainees.
However, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who is currently in Afghanistan, dismissed allegations of wrongdoing, saying the military had to act quickly “to essentially save his life”.
“We didn’t negotiate with terrorists… As I said and explained before, Sergeant Bergdahl was a prisoner of war. That’s a normal process in getting your prisoners back,” he told NBC TV.
US National Security Adviser Susan Rice said that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s failing health had created an “acute urgency” to act and therefore made it “necessary and appropriate” not to adhere to the 30-day notification requirement.
The Afghan government, which was not informed of the deal until after the exchange had taken place, condemned it as a “breach of international law” and urged the US and Qatar to “let the men go free”.
The five detainees are thought to be the most senior Afghans held at the US detention facility in Cuba, having been captured during America’s military campaign in 2001.
In a rare public statement on Sunday, Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar described the exchange as a “big victory”.
President Barack Obama said that he had received security guarantees from Qatar – which mediated the deal – “that it will put in place measures to protect our national security”.
They have been banned from leaving Qatar for at least a year.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, was the only US soldier being held by the Taliban in Afghanistan. He was serving with an infantry regiment in Paktika province, near the Pakistani border, when he went missing on June 30 2009.
President Barack Obama has announced that he received security guarantees from Qatar over five Guantanamo Bay prisoners who were transferred to secure the release of US soldier Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan.
Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, 28, was handed to US forces after being held for nearly five years by the Taliban.
He has left Afghanistan and is en route to a US military hospital in Germany.
Five Afghan detainees were released from the US prison in Cuba and handed to Qatar, which mediated the deal.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who is said to be in good condition, was the only US soldier being held by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
His parents said they were “joyful and relieved” to hear of their son’s release.
Barack Obama was joined at the White House by Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s parents, Robert and Jani (photo AP)
Hours after the release, President Barack Obama told reporters the Qatari government had given the US assurances “that it will put in place measures to protect our national security”.
He also thanked the Qatari authorities for their role in acting as a go-between during indirect US-Taliban negotiations that led to the deal.
The exchanged prisoners are thought to be the most senior Afghans still held at Guantanamo. Under the deal, they will be banned from leaving Qatar for at least a year.
The Taliban said they welcomed their release with “great happiness”.
“While Sgt. Bergdahl was gone he was never forgotten,” Barack Obama said, adding that the US had an “ironclad commitment” to bringing home its prisoners of war.
He was joined by Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s parents, Robert and Jani, at the White House on Saturday. They offered thanks to those who took part in securing their son’s freedom.
In an emotional speech, Robert Bergdahl said his son was having trouble speaking English after his rescue.
Officials said the Taliban had handed Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl over on Saturday evening, local time, in eastern Afghanistan, in an exchange that involved several dozen US special forces.
Bowe Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, was captured on June 30 2009, about two months after arriving in eastern Afghanistan.
In January, the US military obtained a new video of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, giving his family renewed hope of his eventual return.
Three Gulf countries have withdrawn their ambassadors from Qatar amid accusations that it has meddled in internal affairs.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, which are all part of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) along with Qatar, made the joint statement on Wednesday.
The statement claims that Qatar failed to commit to an agreement it signed three months ago in Riyadh.
Tensions between Qatar and the rest of the GCC have increased in recent years.
The joint statement said that during a meeting on Monday in Riyadh, the three countries had made “major efforts to convince Qatar” to implement a 2013 GCC agreement on joint security.
The recall of the ambassadors was therefore necessary to ensure “security and stability”.
Three Gulf countries have withdrawn their ambassadors from Qatar amid accusations that it has meddled in internal affairs
Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have been calling for increased military and diplomatic union within the six-member GCC, which also includes Qatar, Omar and Kuwait.
However, Qatar and Oman have so far resisted increased integration in these fields.
The incident is one of the most serious disagreements within the GCC in recent times.
Oil and gas-rich Qatar has been an increasingly vocal diplomatic player. It strongly supported Egypt’s now-ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and is a key backer of rebels in Syria.
Qatar is home to the influential al-Jazeera news network, which broadcasts across the world and has been critical of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
The state is seen as a major financial and diplomatic supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
On Monday, a Qatari citizen received a seven-year jail sentence in the UAE for supporting a group affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s new government, which is backed by Saudi Arabia, has charged nine al-Jazeera journalists of aiding a terrorist organization, as it now brands the Muslim Brotherhood, and has put them on trial.
A bronze statue of French footballer Zinedine Zidane’s infamous headbutt has been taken down from the Corniche in Doha, Qatar.
The 16 ft sculpture was removed just weeks after being installed, having prompted strong reactions on social media.
It generated criticism from religious conservatives who believe it encourages idolatry; others thought it promoted violence or was in bad taste.
It portrays Zinedine Zidane headbutting Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup.
The bronze statue of Zinedine Zidane’s infamous headbutt has been taken down from the Corniche in Doha
Created by Algerian-born French artist Adel Abdessemed in 2012, it had previously been on show at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. It was bought by the Qatari Museum Authority.
Local reports say the statue – known as Coup de Tete or headbutt – is going to be housed along with other works by Abdessemed in the Arab Museum of Modern Art.
The Arabic hashtag “Zidane’s statue in Qatar” triggered a “massive” reaction from dismayed conservatives on Twitter, said AFP, with one user sarcastically posting: “Congratulations for having new idols.”
“It is sad that our youth see in this art and modernity. Our children do not differentiate between the right and the wrong, or the haram [prohibited] and the halal [permissible],” said another tweeter.
The statue’s craftsmanship and symbolism were earlier praised as “timeless as Greek mythological works of art” by the Jean-Paul Engelen, director of Public Art at the Qatari Museum Authority.
The prospect of a winter World Cup in 2022 took a step forward after UEFA members agreed a summer event could not be played in Qatar.
Summer temperatures in the Gulf state can reach 50C, sparking health fears for players and fans alike.
UEFA’s 54 member associations backed the switch at a meeting in Croatia.
“The World Cup cannot be played in Qatar in the summer,” said FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce.
“Everyone was certainly in agreement about that.”
UEFA members agreed a summer World Cup 2022 could not be played in Qatar
Jim Boyce, a former president of the Irish Football Association, added that the debate was now whether the tournament would be played in January of 2022 or in November and December of that year.
UEFA favors January so that it does not impact on the Champions League, but British associations want to ensure their domestic festive fixtures are protected.
Jim Boyce says the associations do not want FIFA to rush that decision.
“There is still nine years to go and people feel FIFA should sit down with all the major stakeholders and come up with a solution that would cause the minimum disruption to football,” he said.
“There is plenty of time to do that in my opinion.”
FIFA could agree in principle to alter the timing of the World Cup at a meeting in Zurich early next month, but the news that European football chiefs are backing a switch is significant.
That is because European associations represent 10 members of FIFA’s 22-strong executive committee, which will make the final decision.
Head of the Qatar 2022 World Cup, Hassan al-Thawadi, has rejected calls for the tournament to be awarded to another country.
Earlier this week, Australia’s soccer chief Frank Lowy said his country’s Football Federation (FFA) may seek compensation if the 2022 World Cup is switched to the winter.
Australia lost out to Qatar in the voting but has asked FIFA to look at awarding “just and fair compensation” to those nations that “invested many millions, and national prestige, in bidding for a summer event”.