El Paso closes Singapore office amid troubles

Houston-based energy trader and gas major El Paso is closing its Singapore office. The operation, opened in January 2001, was El Paso’s base for its Asian activities, which included investment in local pipeline projects. In 2001, El Paso was the second-largest independent power producer in the Philippines, owning seven generation plants.

The closure comes as part of El Paso’s recent reorganisation, which has seen the company’s focus moving back to natural gas production and transportation from trading. At the end of May, the company laid off 130 traders, but said more would follow in the coming months.

El Paso is also selling many assets, including most of the company’s San Juan Basin natural gas assets in New Mexico, in an effort to shore up its balance sheet. The sale of these assets is expected to raise around $800 million.

El Paso, like many other firms in the US utility industry, is suffering amid a crisis of investor confidence that has seen share prices tumble and credit lines dramatically cut. At the start of April, El Paso’s stock price stood at around $47, but yesterday closed at $23.88. Part of this fall was the perception that last week’s apparent suicide of the company’s corporate treasurer, Charles Dana Rice, was linked to the company’s recent troubles – a view that El Paso denies.

One London-based trader at a rival US company said today: “It’s no surprise that they are moving out [of Singapore]. I just hope the European side doesn’t get cut too much as they have good people and a good operation there.”

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