Qatar crisis: RasGas postpones employee layoffs

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Majority state-owned Qatari gas producer RasGas has postponed a round of job cuts after the diplomatic crisis which erupted between Qatar and its neighbors in early June, people familiar with the matter have told Reuters.

Staff at RasGas were told earlier this year that they would be laid off in June, with the job cuts following last year’s decision to merge RasGas with QatarGas, the two liquefied natural gas divisions of Qatar Petroleum.

But in a company email last month staff were informed that the job cuts had been delayed, two RasGas employees said.

It was not immediately clear whether the delay meant the entire merger had been postponed.

The move comes as Qatar works to cope with sanctions imposed by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, striking trade deals and cancelling the leave of foreign expatriate workers in “essential government sectors” to help cope with the crisis.

“The layoffs were postponed. No reason was given,” said one of the employees, who declined to be named. A RasGas spokeswoman was not available to comment.

Qatar Petroleum’s chief executive said at the end of last year the merger of RasGas and QatarGas would help to cut operating costs by hundreds of millions of dollars at the world’s largest LNG producer, and another group official familiar with the plan said hundreds of people would be laid off.

An official working at a Gulf energy company said Doha was apparently postponing the layoffs because it needed to focus the attention of leaders and managers on the diplomatic crisis, which has disrupted some imports into the country.

“I still think the job cuts will happen in the long run, as the RasGas-QatarGas merger will go ahead and many of the jobs are duplicated across both organizations,” said the official.

“This seems to be a case of ‘we currently have bigger fish to fry than a fast merger’.”

Last month Qatar announced plans to expand its LNG production capacity by 30 percent and build infrastructure to bolster its role as a major global supplier amid rising LNG output from Australia and the United States.

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“With the political crisis and this output expansion, it is all hands on deck,” said a Qatar Petroleum official.

RasGas currently has a production capacity of about 37 million tonnes a year of LNG, according to its website. It is a 70/30 percent joint venture between Qatar Petroleum and Exxon Mobil.

Published on 20 July 2017
Source: Reuters

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