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Cablegate: Malaysia: Isa Update - Petronas Moving Away From Iran Investment

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PP RUEHBC RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHKUK RUEHNH RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKL #0037/01 0190931
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 190931Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY KUALA LUMPUR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3698
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KUALA LUMPUR 000037

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/19/2020
TAGS: ECON EFIN ENIV ETRD ETTC IR KNNP MY
SUBJECT: MALAYSIA: ISA UPDATE - PETRONAS MOVING AWAY FROM IRAN INVESTMENT

REF: 09 STATE 121808

Classified By: Econ Counselor Matt Matthews for reasons 1.4(b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: Post approached the three Malaysian
companies listed in Ref A that are reportedly doing business
or contemplating doing business in Iran. Petronas told us
January 11 that it has no active investments in Iran, no
commitment has been made to invest in South Pars Phase 11 and
its contractual obligations in the Munir block are complete,
with no further investment under consideration. Petronas
officials noted that Petronas is concerned about investing in
Iran due to current political uncertainties there. Amona
told us via telephone they sold their oil and gas (O&G)
business, including any interest in the redevelopment of the
Resalat Oilfield. Post has made contact with representatives
from SKS Ventures, which will be reported septel. Ministry
of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Principal Assistant Secretary and
America Desk Officer Muhammad Radzi Jamaludin (Radzi) told
post that the Ministry of International Trade and Investment
(MITI) held a meeting with Petronas, Amona, and SKS Ventures
and told them to cooperate with embassy inquiries on Iran
investments. End Summary.

2. (C) Comment: Our meeting with Petronas was at a
surprisingly high level and the information offered was
unusually frank and forthcoming for such a sensitive topic.
As a Petronas Board member, Azhar is well positioned to
provide accurate information on Petronas' Iran investment
plans. Post will continue to press for additional details on
Petronas South Pars Phase 11 activity. End Comment.

Petronas
--------

3. (C) Deputy Econcouns Salin and econoff Williams met
January 11 with Petronas Board of Directors Member and
Corporate Secretary Mohd Azhar Osman Khairuddin (Azhar) and
his assistant, Head of Legal Research, Planning and Issues
Management, Abdul Rahim Mydin (Rahim) to query Petronas about
existing and planned investments in Iran,s oil and gas
sector (O&G) and awareness of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA).
Deputy Econcouns delivered ref A points and provided
additional background on our information request.

4. (C) Azhar said that Petronas does not have any
investments in Iran at this time. Azhar explained that
Petronas aspires to be a global company and desires a
positive relationship with the USG. However, he related that
Petronas was a relatively late entrant to the O&G business
and was not competitive with international oil companies
(IOCs) in most development areas. Petronas made the
conscious decision in the mid 1990,s, with the blessing of
the GOM, to compete in countries where Western sanctions
precluded the largest IOCs from competing such as Iran,
Sudan, Myanmar, and Mauritania, according to Azhar. He
claimed that in 1996 the Petronas president met with Clinton
Administration officials informing the USG of Petronas,
plans to invest in Iran and that Secretary Albright gave
Total, Gazprom, and Petronas ISA exemptions on South Pars
Phases 2 and 3. Azhar said that Petronas developed the Siri
field without an exemption and that both of Petronas, prior
Iran projects are now finished. He mentioned that Petronas
does have an ongoing trading relationship with Iran,
exporting lubricants to Iran.

5. (C) Azhar told us that Malaysian O&G reserves are not
large and are running out soon. (Note: Conoco Philips
Malaysia confirmed that without new discoveries, Malaysian
oil production will decline at approximately 10% per year,
from 550,000 bpd in 2008 to roughly 490,000 bpd in 2009 and
450,000 bpd in 2010.) Azhar noted that revenues from
Petronas accounted for 45% of the GOM budget last year and
stated that the GOM is over-reliant on Petronas to fund its
operations. He said Petronas feels tremendous pressure to
grow its business in order to maintain Malaysia,s political
status quo and added that Petronas wants to stay insulated
from politics, but must comply with GOM policy. He
acknowledged the large amount of liquid assets on Petronas,
balance sheet and Petronas, concerns that those funds be
invested in productive O&G assets to promote future
profitability rather than be spent now on domestic programs
for political gain. He described Petronas as a stabilizing
force in Malaysia and in ASEAN regionally and his desire that
the USG recognize the important role Petronas plays in
maintaining political stability in the region.


6. (C) Azhar was not aware of press accounts of Petronas
investment plans in the South Pars Phase 11 gas field and was
noticeably irritated that Petronas gas subsidiary Carigali
had not mentioned Phase 11 when it briefed Azhar on its Iran
activities. He was quite clear, from his position as a
member of the Petronas Board of Directors, that no final
investment decision had been made on any new project in Iran.
Azhar added that Petronas is closely following the political
situation in Iran between President Ahmadinejad and the
opposition and stated that Petronas is very concerned about
investing in Iran at this point due to political
uncertainties and the possibility of "disruptive changes."

7. (C) (Note: In a follow-up telephone call January 14,
Rahim told econoff that investment in South Pars Phase 11 is
still under consideration, but that Petronas has not
committed to the investment. Econoff asked follow-up
questions on the status, timing, and cost of due diligence,
contract status with Iran/CNPC, and when a final decision
could be reached. Rahim asked econoff to forward the
follow-up questions via email and that he would try to
respond. End Note.)

8. (C) Azhar was excited about Petronas successful bid with
Shell to develop the Majnoon oilfield in Iraq. He praised
the open and transparent competitive bidding process and said
that Iraq,s opening is putting a lot of pressure on Iran.
Petronas is bullish on the political situation in Iraq and
plans to compete for additional business in Iraq, according
to Azhar.

Amona Claims O&G Business Sold
------------------------------

9. (C) Econoff and LES Tang Loon Lian contacted Amona
December 9 via telephone regarding its announced investment
in the Resalat Oilfield. An Amona representative told us
Amona had sold its entire oil and gas business to Oil Corp.,
a publicly traded Malaysian company. Local news databases
did not report announcement of a sale. A search of Bursa
Malaysia publicly listed companies showed that Oil Corp. is
losing significant amounts of money and appears near
bankruptcy. Post will continue to check for additional
details on the status of Malaysian participation in the
Resalat transaction.

MFA and Trade Ministry Authorize Cooperation
--------------------------------------------

10. (C) During a January 12 meeting, Ministry of Foreign
Affairs Principal Assistant Secretary and America Desk
Officer Muhammad Radzi Jamaludin (Radzi) told econoff that he
had recently attended a MITI-led meeting, in which MITI
called in Petronas, SKS Ventures and Amona and told them to
cooperate with the embassy in our ISA inquiry. Radzi said
that Petronas told MITI it does not have any investment in
Iran now and that the private companies (SKS and Amona)
claimed they had no financing sources for their projects in
Iran. Radzi also described how Malaysian firms go to Iran
with suitcases of money to purchase oil and gas concessions
from the Iranians. He said that they bring too much cash to
count the money, so they weigh it to determine if the amount
is correct. Radzi did not offer why Malaysian firms would
purchase an O&G concession from the Iranians for a project
they are unable to finance.
KEITH

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