Sasol Ltd is reining in oil expansion and considering job cuts as part of ongoing efforts to turn the business around and protect itself from market downturns.
The overhaul at the South African company follows a 50% slump in its shares this year as oil’s crash strained finances already pummeled by cost overruns at a giant US chemicals project. Now it’ll focus squarely on its core chemicals and synthetic-fuels divisions as it seeks to boost cash and bring down debt.
A “key decision” is the “discontinuation of all oil growth activities in West Africa,”
the Johannesburg-based company said in a statement. That relates to fields in Gabon, where Sasol has an interest in Vaalco Energy Inc’s operations. It also has a larger exploration and production unit in Mozambique, which isn’t affected.
Sasol is conducting a “robust” review of its business and workforce, and has entered talks with labour unions about possible job cuts, the company said. It needs to bring down debt that ballooned after the cost of the US Lake Charles chemicals plant soared to $13 billion.
Creditors have waived a June debt covenant and lifted another in December to four times Sasol’s net debt as a ratio of earnings, the company said. That alleviates some pressure to conclude an asset sale and stave off a potential rights offer.
Sasol also reported momentum in its revived crude-oil hedging program, saying about 80% of its synthetic-fuels production has been hedged for the first quarter of 2021 and more is in progress for the rest of the year.
The company will make changes to its executive committee, including the creation of a role to manage the overhaul and “help execute our restructuring initiative and mitigate risks to ongoing operations,” it said.