Mozambique Gets Delivery of Tuna Boats Amid Donor Concern

Mozambique has begun taking delivery of boats for the state-owned tuna-fishing company it set up with funding from $850 million in bonds, a transaction that prompted concern from the country’s aid donors.

Empresa Mocambicana de Atum SA, or Ematum, was set up in August last year. Credit Suisse Group AG and VTB Capital Plc financed its purchase of tuna boats, then packaged the debt into bonds that they sold to investors.

“There’s five vessels delivered already,” Cristina Matavele, executive manager for Maputo-based Ematum, said in a Sept. 19 e-mailed response to questions. The company plans to harvest 650 metric tons of tuna in the fishing season that starts next month, she said.

The Mozambican company is paying 200 million euros ($257 million) for 24 tuna boats and six patrol vessels from Cherbourg, France-based Constructions Mecaniques de Normandie SA, known as CMN, French Foreign Trade Ministry spokeswoman Perrine Duglet said in an e-mail last year. The fleet also includes anti-piracy patrol boats, according to the French ministry.

Ematum borrowed $500 million from Credit Suisse and $350 million from Russia’s VTB Capital. Moody’s Investors Service rated the loan-participation notes B1, four levels below investment grade.

“The debt will be repaid in seven years starting from next year according to the loan agreement,” Matavele said.

Aid Threat

The country’s main donors, known as the Program Aid Partners, are the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the European Union, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K.

Some donors threatened to delay budget aid over the deal, Anne Fruhauf, an analyst for New York-based consultants Teneo Intelligence, said last year.

“The company appears to be evolving from phantom to operational entity,” she said in a Sept. 20 e-mail. “Donor relations are cool, but not in crisis.”

Mozambique’s long-term credit rating was cut in February by Standard & Poor’s, partly because of the lack of transparency about the bond sale.

“The delivery of the Ematum vessels is a sign of progress on the ground,” Fruhauf said.

The country expects to earn $90 million a year from fishing after the fleet is established, Fisheries Minister Victor Borges told parliament Nov. 27 in Maputo, the capital. Mozambique’s revenue from tuna fishing is currently about $1 million, he said.

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