Egypt has paid $1.5 billion (LE10.5 billion) of its outstanding debt to foreign oil and gas companies, the country's petroleum minister announced on Thursday.
The payment, announced a day after the government signed LE10 billion ($1.4 billion) worth of loans with a consortium of banks led by the National Bank of Egypt (NBE), brings the debt owed to the firms down to LE34.3 billion ($4.9 billion dollars).
The last such repayment by Egypt to the foreign companies was an installment worth LE10.5 billion ($1.5 billion) in December 2013, confirmed the statement.
The cash-strapped public oil and gas sector, which has accumulated debt to foreign partners in the oil and gas sector operating in the country, is suffering from an escalating energy crisis, manifested in fuel shortages and regular blackouts.
“The government aims to reduce the debt to encourage the firms to step up research and exploration operations, to boost local production of oil and gas and minimise imports, which in turn will spare the cash to continue paying Egypt's due debts to its foreign partners,” said Minister of Petroleum Sherif Ismail in the statement.
The statement did not mention which foreign firms received the latest payment.
Earlier this week, the minister had announced that Egypt would be paying LE14 – LE21 billion ($2-3 billion) of its debt to foreign oil and gas companies before the end of the calendar year.