Foreign firms, including ExxonMobil (XOM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Royal Dutch Shell Plc. (RDSa.L: Quote, Profile, Research)(RDSb.L: Quote, Profile, Research), and local distributor Dippsa say a price formula set up by the government in an effort to keep prices low for consumers has cost them millions of dollars in lost profits.
“There will be no more investments by multinational companies in Honduras if we are losing money in our operations,” Mauricio Sierra, the head of the country’s oil industry group, told a news conference.
Honduras, which produces no crude of its own and no longer has a refinery, sets the price to buy oil from importers using a formula that has not been revised since January 2007.
The companies say the government formula prices regular, lower-quality gas the same as the more expensive premium variety, eating into the companies’ profits. The losses mean the companies have had trouble keeping up oil terminals, which has led to shortages in recent weeks, said Sierra.
But the government says the oil and gas companies have priced their services too high and the formula is a necessary measure.
In May, leftist President Manuel Zelaya threatened to take state control of the country’s gas depots after diesel shortages hurt the transport system in the country, including public buses and garbage collection trucks.
The country’s energy importers have some $400 million invested in storage terminals, service stations and convenience stores in the country but Sierra did not specify the amount of new investment that could be canceled.
In 2007, Honduras imported 17 million barrels of oil. (Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Editing by Gary Hill)