Spanish Group Partner Of Ali Haddad Sues Sonatrach Internationally

April 29, 2021

The Spanish “OHL” group decided to file an international arbitration case against the national hydrocarbon company Sonatrach, demanding that it complies with the agreement to purchase 49 percent of the share of the “Fertial” fertilizer company that the Spanish party holds, in line with what it said was an agreement reached in March 2019.

The Spanish economic website, “El Economista”, reported that the Spanish owner of the OHL complex, businessman Juan Miguel Villar Mir, had filed an international arbitration case against the Algerian company Sonatrach at the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris whereby it enjoined Sonatrach, to comply with the purchase agreement concluded in March 2019 between the complex and the National Hydrocarbons Company.

In March 2019, the OHL complex reached an agreement with Sonatrach to purchase the National Hydrocarbons Company of the Spanish party’s share of 34 percent, in addition to the share of imprisoned businessman Ali Haddad estimated at 17 percent, and this is for the benefit of the Sonatrach-owned “Asmidal” company.

This agreement came on the heels of a deal a few days earlier between the Spanish conglomerate OHL and businessman Ali Haddad, which stipulated that Ali Haddad would buy the Spanish party’s 49 percent share, in order to become the majority owner in the company specialized in producing fertilizers (Ammonia).

The Villar Mir Group (GVM) has thus opened an arbitration in the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) of Paris in which it demands that Sonatrach comply with the purchase agreement by the Algerian state company of 49% that the Spanish holding company owns Fertial, a company specialized in the production of fertilizers and ammonia that operates in Algeria, according to sources familiar with the process.

The group chaired by Juan Miguel Villar Mir has made this decision after two years of blockade by Sonatrach, which through its subsidiary Asmidal holds 34% of Fertial. According to the latest annual accounts of the family holding company, 49% of Fertial has a valuation of 129.1 million euros – to this is added more than 20 million pending collection for the dividend.

The Villar Mir Group and ETRHB Haddad, Fertial’s third shareholder with 17% of the capital, agreed in March 2019 to sell
The Villar Mir Group and ETRHB Haddad, Fertial’s third shareholder with 17% of the capital, agreed in March 2019 to sell their shares (66%) to Asmidal. However, the Sonatrach subsidiary has not executed the purchase since then, which has led the Spanish company to resort to international arbitration.

However, the Villar Mir holding company, which includes Ferroglobe, OHL, Inmobiliaria Espacio, VM Energía or Fertial itself among its investees, keeps the door open to try to reach an understanding with the Algerian Government to unravel the situation.

The breach of the agreement by Asmidal has been extended in a context in which there has been a change in the Algerian Executive.

The latter’s refusal to consummate the 2019 pact has even affected Fertial’s activity, with production blockages that have deteriorated its business figures. In addition, the legal problems of the owner of Etrhb Haddad, Ali Haddad, sentenced to 12 years in prison for influence peddling, have also affected the transaction.

The Villar Mir Group and Asmidal created Fertial in 2005, with a participation of 66% and 34% respectively. Subsequently, in 2016, the Algerian authorities forced the Spanish firm to dilute itself below 50% – up to 49% -, giving Etrhb Haddad entry into the capital, with 17%.

The 49% that GVM owns in Fertial was left out of the sale of Fertiberia, transferred in 2020 to the German fund Triton Partners
Currently, Fertial has 1,035 workers. The company has two plants in Algeria, Annaba and Arzew (Oran), with a production of 1.68 million tons of fertilizers and 900,000 tons of ammonia.

The 49% that GVM has in Fertial was left out of the sale of Fertiberia, transferred in 2020 to the German fund Triton Partners. With this divestment and that of OHL’s 16%, transferred almost a year ago to Mexican businessmen Luis and Mauricio Amodio, the Villar Mir family has managed to significantly reduce its debt in recent months. Thus, with the collaboration of Tyrus, at the beginning of this year it acquired and repaid the bulk of the debt with Credit Suisse for 115 million euros.

Likewise, it has settled the liability it had with OHL for Pacadar, already controlled by the construction company – it has collection rights for Fertial-, and has lengthened the maturities of the debt with Tyrus. With the sale of Fertial, GVM intends to cancel a large part of this debt.

“El Economista” pointed out that the OHL complex, owned by businessman Juan Miguel Villar Mir, estimated the value of its stake in “Fertial” (49 percent) at 129 million euros (about 2,100 billion cents), in addition to another 20 million euros in profits.
The company employs about 1035 people through its two production sites in Annaba and Arzew, in the province of Oran, and produces agricultural fertilizers, especially ammonia.

This step raises many questions about its timing and whether the imprisoned businessman Ali Haddad has a hand in that, especially since he was previously involved in communicating with an American lobby group.

An American website revealed in early August 2020 that the former president of the Businessmen Forum (FCE), Ali Haddad who was convicted in corruption cases, hired a close man who worked as an advisor to former US President Donald Trump for $ 10 million dollars to put pressure on Algeria for projected hefty spin-offs.


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