Suriname's Staatsolie Eyes Stake in Apache's Prolific Offshore Block

Suriname's state-owned oil company Staatsolie is considering farming into an offshore oil block where Apache Corp and France's Total SA have announced a third major discovery, an executive said on Sunday.

Staatsolie has the right to a stake of up to 20% in the 1.4 million-acre Block 58, where Apache and Total last week announced the find at the Kwaskwasi-1 well. The stake would cost the company $1-$1.5 billion to acquire given total development costs of $6-$7 billion, acting general manager Agnes Moensi-Sokowikromo told reporters.

She said that while the company is keen to participate, now may not be the best time to begin raising funds given recent downgrades to Suriname's credit ratings.

"We have to make sure that the funding is in order and that we are ready, and for that we need the state because we can't do it alone," Moensi-Sokowikromo said at a press conference.

Suriname's economy collapsed under former strongman Desi Bouterse, who left office last month after former Justice Minister Chan Santokhi beat him in a June election.

Discoveries this year have raised hopes that oil could boost the economy of Suriname, a former Dutch colony of 575,000 people. Optimism has surged since a consortium led by Exxon Mobil Corp discovered vast amounts of oil in neighboring Guyana, where crude production began last December.

Santokhi told the press conference the government expected to receive between 60%-70% of total oil revenues once production began, which the state plans to deposit into a "savings and stabilization fund."

"We have to make sure there are regulations that ensure the oil and the income from the oil will be used for sustainable development," Santokhi said. 

(Reporting by Ank Kuipers in Paramaribo, Suriname Writing by Luc Cohen; editing by Richard Pullin)

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