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Chevron Acquires Offshore Suriname Acreage

Chevron Corporation announced that its wholly owned subsidiary Chevron Global Energy Inc. (Chevron) will be assigned a 50 percent working interest in Blocks 42 and 45 offshore Suriname through an agreement with Kosmos Energy.

Under the agreement, Kosmos will have a 50 percent working interest and remain operator of both blocks until the end of the exploration phase. Chevron will assume the remaining 50 percent working interest and will be the operator following any commercial discoveries.

“This agreement enables us to explore for new resources in this frontier basin,” said George Kirkland, vice chairman, Chevron Corporation. “These blocks are on trend with new deepwater Cretaceous discoveries in the region.”

Blocks 42 and 45 are located approximately 155 miles (250 kilometers) from Paramaribo and cover a combined area of approximately 2.8 million gross acres, at water depths ranging between 650 and 8,500 feet (200-2600 meters).

“We are very pleased to participate in Suriname’s emerging energy sector,” said Ali Moshiri, president of Chevron Africa and Latin America Exploration and Production Company. “These blocks will expand our exploration portfolio in Latin America.”

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Mexico: Cal Dive Nets Second Pemex Contract

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Cal Dive International, Inc. announced that it has been awarded a contract by Pemex Exploración y Producción for the installation of a 20 inch subsea pipeline located in the Abkatun Pol Chuc Field in 73 meters of water.

The contract is expected to generate total revenue of approximately $46 million and will utilize two of the Company’s key assets. The offshore construction is expected to commence in the second quarter 2012.

Quinn Hébert, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cal Dive, stated, “We are pleased to announce our second contract win in Mexico for 2012. Mexico is shaping up to be a very active market in 2012 as expected. So far we have been awarded contracts in Mexico with aggregate expected revenue in 2012 of approximately $70 million compared to revenues generated from Mexico projects in 2011 of approximately $30 million.

Cal Dive International, Inc., headquartered in Houston, Texas, is a marine contractor that provides an integrated offshore construction solution to its customers, including manned diving, pipelay and pipe burial, platform installation and platform salvage services to the offshore oil and natural gas industry on the Gulf of Mexico OCS, Northeastern U.S., Latin America, Southeast Asia, China, Australia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, with a fleet of 29 vessels, including 19 surface and saturation diving support vessels and 10 construction barges.

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Anonymous bring down Interpol website in retaliation for 25 arrests

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Supporters of the Anonymous hacker group attacked Interpol‘s main website after the international police agency conducted a number of hacker arrests across the globe.

­The website Interpol.int was unreachable for a half hour on Wednesday, Forbes reports. Access was later restored, although the loading time remains slow. The attack appears to have been conducted using a botnet. Anonymous Twitter accounts tweeted “interpol.int seems to be #TangoDown. We can’t say that this surprises us much,” and “Looks like interpol.int is having some traffic issues. Now who would have expected that?”

The attacks came as Interpol announced the arrests of 25 suspected Anonymous members, aged between 17 and 40, who it alleges planned coordinated cyber-attacks against Colombia’s defense ministry and presidential websites, Chile’s Endesa electricity company and national library, among other targets. The arrests were part of Operation Unmask, during which police in Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Spain seized computers, mobile phones, credit cards and cash at 40 locations in 15 cities.

Among the 25 under arrest are four Anonymous hackers detained by police in Spain earlier on Tuesday under claims that they conducted attacks on Spanish political parties’ websites. The Spanish National Police also said two servers in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic had been blocked as part of Operation Unmask, and that a manager of Anonymous’ operations in Spain and Latin America, known by the aliases “Thunder” and “Pacotron,” was among those arrested.

The four are also suspected of vandalizing websites, conducting DDoS attacks and publishing sensitive data on police officers assigned to Spain’s royal palace and its prime minister’s office.

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EL-ERIAN: Europe Threatens To Cripple The IMF

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G20 finance ministers need to stand in the way of European manipulation of the International Monetary Fund when they meet in Mexico City this weekend, PIMCO chief executive Mohamed El-Erian writes in a column published today in the Financial Times.

A staunch critic of Europe‘s attempts to get around its internal problems by relying on IMF funding, he argues that non-European economies need to stand up for the IMF’s professed “uniformity of treatment,” particularly given the harsh rules the organizations have imposed on emerging market countries in Asia and Latin America in the past.

A few choice snippets:

It should come as no surprise that over the last couple of years Europe has pressed the IMF very hard to make exception after exception – and it has succeeded. This has resulted in a number of firsts by an organisation that prided itself on the “uniformity of treatment” for member countries.

And later…

This is an internal issue that the IMF cannot, and should not be expected to, solve. It is up to the eurozone to decide whether to go forward in its current configuration towards a fiscal union or whether to first slim down to a more coherent and stable configuration. This would provide a better basis for a larger European-financed firewall.

As tempting as it is, Europe should not seek to obfuscate this critical decision by using IMF financing to give the appearance of sustaining the unsustainable. It must start making the necessary, albeit very difficult, decisions. Until this happens, the G20 has a global responsibility to protect the IMF from further damage to its credibility and legitimacy.

Read El-Erian’s full editorial in the Financial Times >

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USA: SEACOR Buys 18 Liftboats from Superior

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SEACOR Marine has reached an agreement with Superior Energy Services L.L.C. to purchase 18 liftboats for $134 million plus working capital.

The transaction is expected to close by the end of March 2012, subject to regulatory approvals. All of the liftboats are currently located in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

U.S.-based SEACOR Marine, a subsidiary of SEACOR Holdings Inc., operates a fleet of offshore marine support vessels, serving the global offshore oil and gas exploration and production industry worldwide with operations and infrastructure concentrated in the United States, Latin America, North Sea, West Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.

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Koch Supply & Trading Launches Global LNG Trading Business

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Koch Supply & Trading Sárl said that it has launched a global gas trading business.

Stephen Cornish has joined Koch Supply & Trading Sárl to build the global trading and marketing business for liquefied natural gas, natural gas and related commodities.

Koch companies have a long track record of excellence in the natural gas markets,” Cornish said. “This venture into the international gas markets is a way to link its global portfolio to benefit its suppliers and customers. We believe this step into the international gas markets provides a strong counterparty for producers and customers alike.

We will build out our operations in Asia, Europe and the Americas to the high standard that Koch Supply & Trading has set and look forward to working with our counterparts. This is a very exciting venture for us.”

Koch Supply & Trading also said that  it plans to build a Europe-wide natural gas business from Geneva and an LNG trading business from offices in Houston, London, and Singapore. Origination and marketing support locations are also planned for the near future in East Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

Articles

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Latin America : Business climate is king again

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By Brian Winter
SAO PAULO | Thu Jan 12, 2012 9:20am EST

(Reuters) – Here’s an economic riddle of sorts: Which economy grew faster over the last seven years? A) President Hugo Chavez‘s Venezuela, famous for its forced nationalizations and “21st century socialism,” or B) Chile, long renowned as a capitalist paradise for investors.

It might surprise some outsiders to learn that the answer is actually A. In recent years, commodities prices have dictated growth in Latin America more than any other factor, meaning that countries could trample on businesses but still grow briskly as long as they exported plenty of raw materials such as oil and iron ore to China and elsewhere.

Venezuela, the region’s No. 1 oil exporter, has averaged about 4.6 percent economic growth since 2005, compared to 4 percent in Chile, the world’s leader in copper. An even clearer example of commodities’ almighty reign was Argentina, which averaged 7 percent growth during the same period as record soy and other farm exports helped offset the government’s hostile stance toward energy companies and some other investors.

Now, it looks as if the trend is shifting. In Latin America, 2012 seems set to be the year in which business climate clearly reestablishes its supremacy as the main driver of growth.

The countries expected to grow the fastest in 2012 are also generally the ones that are perceived by the World Bank and others as treating investors the best. That means Chile, Peru and Colombia should lead the pack, while Venezuela and even Brazil will lag a step behind – just as they did last year.

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Graphic on region’s economies: r.reuters.com/bed95s

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What has changed? The global economy.

Demand for many commodities is expected to slacken in 2012 due to economic problems in buyer markets such as China and Europe. That means it will be up to Latin American countries to generate more of their own growth – and the ones that fare best will be those who have made their labor laws more flexible, cut red tape, and taken other steps to stimulate business.

“There’s no question we’re seeing a change,” said David Rees, Latin America economist for Capital Economics in London. “The external drivers of growth are drying up and these countries will have to look to other sources like investment in order to keep up the pace.”

A DOGFIGHT FOR FIRST PLACE AMONG INVESTORS

One way to measure the trend is by looking at the World Bank’s annual “Doing Business” study, which ranks the business climate in 183 countries around the world based on how well they protect investors; the ease of starting a business; the simplicity of paying taxes; and other factors.

The cluster of Latin American countries that rank a clear step above their other regional peers in the survey are Chile (39), Peru (41) and Colombia (42).

All three of those economies are forecast to grow 4.5 percent or more this year, according to the International Monetary Fund‘s latest forecasts, made in October. Countries that rank lower in the Doing Business survey, such as Guatemala (97), Brazil (126) and Venezuela (177) are all forecast to grow in the 3.5 percent range or lower.

The divergent trend is even more pronounced in more recent 2012 forecasts by Wall Street firms such as Morgan Stanley.

The region’s other two big economies also appear to be headed in opposite directions.

Growth in Argentina (113) is expected by the IMF to be around 4.5 percent this year – but that’s just about half of last year’s pace. Meanwhile, Mexico’s (53) relatively open, low-tax economy should show resilience, with growth of 3.6 percent – well above its roughly 2 percent trend level since 2005.

Most of the countries at the top of the economic league table have vigorously implemented pro-business reforms in recent years, often with the explicit goal of improving their standing in the Doing Business rankings.

Peru, Chile and Colombia have been battling each other for supremacy within Latin America for years, said Luis Plata, a former Colombian trade minister. “We fought hard to be first,” he said in an interview. “It became a competition.”

“The rankings improve your standing with investors, but … the real reason to do it is to help you identify deep changes in the system, things that will help your economy grow better,” Plata said.

For this year’s “champion,” the dividends are clear. Chile saw foreign investment of $13.79 billion in 2011, a historic high that contributed to the country’s fastest economic growth in years. A top Chilean official told Reuters last month that the government expects a new record in foreign investment this year.

STALLED REFORMS IN BRAZIL

In countries closer to the bottom of the table, attitudes are notably different.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez has shown few signs of softening an antagonistic stance toward some investors that in recent years has seen her government nationalize private pension funds and face widespread suspicions of manipulating basic economic data such as inflation.

Venezuela’s economy remained buoyant for years thanks largely to its status as South America’s biggest oil exporter, but Chavez’s frequent confrontations with business have hollowed out much of the private sector and left the economy dependent on state spending.

In Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy, the picture is slightly more complex. While successive governments have catered to private enterprise to a much greater extent than Argentina and Venezuela, Brazil has also failed to push any major pro-business reforms through Congress in a decade.

As a result, investors have become frustrated with the country’s high costs and red tape. Brazil dropped six spots in the latest Doing Business survey – more than any other big economy in Latin America – and ranks in the world’s bottom third in categories such as trading across borders, dealing with construction permits, and ease of paying taxes.

Partly as a result of the business climate, some economists believe that Brazil may be downshifting into a new era of 3 percent to 4 percent economic growth, which would be a letdown after the faster pace of previous years.

“Brazil hasn’t kept pace with some other (Latin American) countries on some of the really important long-term questions, and they may pay the price for that,” said Gray Newman, chief Latin America economist for Morgan Stanley.

“People focus on things like inflation, and that’s good, but what about – How long does it take to open a business? How easy is it to hire and fire?” Newman said. “The economies that are moving forward are the ones that have looked at those metrics, and have put them at the heart of government policy.”

(Editing by Todd Benson and Kieran Murray)

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Iranian president to tour Latin America

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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad heads to Caracas looking to expand ties and lessen impact of sanctions

Saeed Kamali Dehghan, Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro and Virginia Lopez in Caracas

The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is due to touch down in Venezuela on Sunday on the first leg of a Latin American tour aimed at lifting his regime out of international isolation and bolstering its sanctions-hit economy.

Ahmadinejad, who is facing growing economic discontent at home and pressure from the west over Iran’s disputed nuclear programme, will also visit Nicaragua, Cuba, Ecuador and possibly Guatemala in a search for new and improved economic partnerships to reduce the impact of sanctions. The five-day Latin America visit is scheduled to start in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, with meetings with president Hugo Chávez, a long-time ally.

Ahmadinejad is then expected to travel to Managua for the swearing-in of the Nicaraguan president, Daniel Ortega, before travelling to Cuba and Ecuador. Reports suggest he may also visit Guatemala.

The president’s entourage is expected to include the energy minister, Majid Namjoo, who has said the tour is aimed at promoting commercial ties with Latin American countries. Analysts view Ahmadinejad’s excursion as a reaction to growing economic difficulties at home and political isolation abroad.

Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based thinktank Inter-American Dialogue, said Iran had economic and geopolitical agendas in Latin America.

“Iran has real economic difficulties and is isolated, so the trip makes sense in that context,” he said. “Latin America, in contrast, is in pretty good economic shape and is increasingly active in global, diplomatic affairs.”

Maria Teresa Romero, professor of international studies at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, said the trip was also intended as a warning signal to Washington.

“That Iran’s president has chosen to visit the region – and only the more staunch political opponents to the US – at a moment when tensions between the US and Iran are escalating is a challenge, a threat, from the Iranian government to the US that sends a clear message: ‘We can go to your backyard when we want to,'” she said.

Iran is grappling with a range of domestic and international problems.Its currency, the rial, has plunged to a record low in recent weeks, causing mayhem at the Iranian stock market and prompting fears over the future effects of the sanctions on the economy.

High unemployment, political power struggles and fears of unrest before the parliamentary elections in March have made the domestic political atmosphere increasingly tense.

At an international level, Iran has resorted to sabre-rattling and threatening countries involved in a campaign to bring sanctions against its central bank and impose a ban on the import of its oil.

Iran raised the stakes, warningthe west it might close the strait of Hormuz, a strategically important passageway in the Gulf through which one fifth of the world’s oil is transported, should greater sanctions on its oil be imposed.

Latin America has become an increasing priority for Ahmadinejad since his election in 2005. New embassies have opened in six countries, while state-run Press TV has also been beefing up its presence in the region, with correspondents in Caracas and more recently Sao Paulo.

On the eve of Ahmadinejad’s visit, one Press TV report said: “The promotion of all-out co-operation with Latin American countries is among the top priorities of the Islamic republic’s foreign policy.

But Shifter said Iran’s president should not hope for big advances during his tour. Ahmadinejad will not visit Brazil, the regional economic powerhouse, as he did during his previous visit in 2009 – an indication that relations have cooled since Dilma Rousseff took over as president.

“Iran should probably keep its expectations in check. If Iran’s goal is to extend its influence, Latin America does not offer a hospitable environment. It is telling that the larger, more significant countries are not part of Ahmadinejad’s itinerary. These countries may want greater independence from Washington, and may be flexing their muscles a bit on the global stage, but they are not keen to be aligned strategically with Tehran,” he said.

Romero said that in the case of Hugo Chávez, who faces a tricky presidential election in October, the visit could even backfire.

“This is an electoral year in both the US and Venezuela, and I would be surprised if the Republicans don’t use this kind of event to exert more pressure on the Obama administration. I think sanctions against Iran are likely to strengthen, but I also think they could be extended to Venezuela.”

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