New permanent CEO for Sonatrach

Nordine Cherouati - until recently the head of Algeria's hydrocarbons industry-sector regulator Alnaft - has been named the new chief executive of state-owned oil and gas giant Sonatrach, in a first step to normalise operations and management of the company following the dismissal of most of its senior leadership after an intensive corruption probe.

There was no immediate news of which position - if any - serving interim chief executive Abdehafid Feghouli would move to, given that a report in the Wall Street Journal also stated that Abdelkhader Benchouia - who took over Feghouli's previous role as vice-president for downstream - has been confirmed in his new position. Likewise, Said Sahnoun and Yamina Hamdi were both confirmed in their new roles as vice-presidents for exploration and production, and marketing, respectively. Turmoil hit Sonatrach in January, when most of its vice-presidents and several other senior executives were suspended, alongside chief executive Mohamed Meziane, after large-scale corruption allegations involving, among other things, the possible payment of kickbacks to family members and awarding of contracts to companies with family ties to the senior leadership. None of these cases has yet resulted in a legal verdict as investigations are dragging on, but several of the high-profile officials involved have been placed under travel restrictions or even arrested, underlining the apparent severity of the charges—although there are widespread reports of a political backdrop to the affair. In the meantime Sonatrach has suffered a near decision-making paralysis, halting nearly all but the most straightforward day-to-day production and marketing operations. Cherouati is regarded as an oil industry veteran in Algeria, with decades of experience. Crucially, however, he is not regarded as being as close to energy minister and presidential ally Chakib Khelil as most of Sonatrach's previous executive - Meziane in particular.

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