US embassy cable - 02AMMAN3082

PROGRESS ON JORDAN PHOSPHATE MINES PRIVATIZATION

Identifier: 02AMMAN3082
Wikileaks: View 02AMMAN3082 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Amman
Created: 2002-06-11 10:17:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: EINV EIND EMIN JO
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS AMMAN 003082 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
USDOC FOR 4520/ITA/MAC/ONE/THANOS 
TREASURY FOR PIPATANAGUL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: EINV, EIND, EMIN, JO 
SUBJECT: PROGRESS ON JORDAN PHOSPHATE MINES PRIVATIZATION 
 
 
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED; PLEASE HANDLE ACCORDINGLY 
 
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SUMMARY 
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1.  (SBU) The GOJ is moving forward with the privatization of 
the Jordan Phosphate Mines Company (JPMC), Jordan's largest 
company and the largest, single exporter, with plans to sell 
a substantial chunk of the firm to a Canadian company.  If 
successful, the transaction could bring in up to USD70 
million for Jordan's new investment plan.  The sale of the 
ailing monopolist will mark a major milestone in Jordan's 
ongoing, yet fitful, privatization process, but will face 
domestic political hurdles.  End Summary 
 
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MORE THAN JUST A MINERAL 
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2.  (SBU) Jordan is the world's third largest exporter of 
phosphate, a mineral used in the production of fertilizer. 
In 2001, phosphate and potash (another raw material used in 
fertilizer) exports comprised 17 percent of Jordan's domestic 
exports.  The mining sector has historically represented an 
important earner of foreign exchange over the years, as well 
as an important source of revenue in the form of mining fees, 
taxes and dividends, and the GOJ has been loathe to part with 
key contributors such as JPMC as it strives to privatize. 
 
3.  (SBU) JPMC is one of the biggest employers in Jordan, but 
losses of USD179 million in 2000 forced JPMC to restructure, 
and 1300 employees (out of 6500) were offered, and accepted, 
early retirement.  Due to a worldwide surplus of phosphate, 
the price of the mineral has dropped over the last three 
years, causing an attendant drop in sales for JPMC.  But 
overstaffing, inefficient production methods and facilities, 
and chronic mismanagement continue to plague JPMC, and the 
company reported net losses of USD 12 million in 2001.  Jobs 
at JPMC have traditionally been a key source of political 
patronage in the southern part of the country, a region whose 
stability is often seen as crucial to the stability of the 
country as a whole.  (For example, when the Aqaba Railway 
Company (ARC) was privatized, 500 unskilled ARC workers were 
hired by JPMC under government directive.)  Under the 
recommendation of the IMF, the company was slated for 
privatization late last year. 
 
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ENTER THE CANADIANS 
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4.  (SBU) According to recent press reports, the Canadian 
mining concern Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (PCS) is 
negotiating with the GOJ to buy a stake in the company.  Reem 
Badran, Director of the Jordan Investment Board, confirmed 
that talks were underway.  She told us that, while other 
companies had expressed interest in JPMC, the PCS bid seemed 
to be the most serious.  While PCS has offered to buy the 
GOJ's entire 65 percent share of the company, Badran said 
that the GOJ only would sell 40 percent at this time (valued 
at approximately USD70 million at today's share price), with 
the Jordan Investment Board retaining approximately 25 
percent of the company.  The remainder is owned by the 
Jordanian Social Security Corporation, the Kuwait Investment 
Corporation, and other private investors.  Badran added that 
there was as yet no timetable for the deal to be completed. 
(Note: PCS is the largest producer of phosphate in the world.) 
 
 
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COMMENT 
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5.  (SBU) Even a partial sale of JPMC would give Jordan's 
privatization program a much-needed shot in the arm.  A deal 
could not come at a better time, as the GOJ needs money to 
fund the its socio-economic plan, which calls for GOJ 
investment in projects that encourage economic growth.  A 
sale could also demonstrate to the IMF and foreign investors 
alike that the country is ready to break the privatization 
logjam.  But a challenge for a successful new management team 
will be finding a politically acceptable formula for trimming 
down to an efficient, productive work force. 
Gnehm 

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