Posted by: Reuters

FILE PHOTO – An iluminated board at the new Mobil gas station is pictured in Queretaro, Mexico December 8, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) has shown an interest in working in Algeria, the head of state energy firm Sonatrach said on Tuesday.

“It is important to highlight that a big major Exxon Mobil has shown an interest to come to Algeria,” Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour told reporters, without giving further details.

He also said he had resolved 80 percent of the state firm’s disputes with foreign firms, while Sonatrach had been able to fulfil gas supply contracts with Europe this winter despite rising domestic demand.

Kaddour, a U.S.-trained engineer, who took office last year to overhaul Sonatrach plagued by contract disputes with foreign firms, red tape, stagnant production and corruption scandals.

OPEC member Algeria and a major gas supplier to Europe, has been hit hard by a slump in world oil prices and has struggled to attract energy investment to help develop new fields and increase existing production.

In December, Sonatrach said it planned to work more closely with France’s Total (TOTF.PA) on offshore, petrochemical, solar energy and shale exploration projects after settling disputes over profit-sharing on oil and gas contracts.

Algeria remains dependent on oil and gas earnings, which provide 60 percent of the state budget, and Sonatrach’s performance is key to the health of the economy.

The country has been working on a new energy law to provide better incentives for foreign firms, which had been deterred by current terms.

But there are still divergent views within Algeria over how hard to push for foreign investment and domestic economic reform to boost revenue and spur growth.

Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Writing by Ulf Laessing, editing by David Evans