Congo Names New Oil Minister, Reviving Hopes On Stalled Deals

LONDON (Dow Jones)

Congo has appointed Celestin Mbuyu as its new oil minister, state-media said over the weekend, a move rekindling hopes that long-stalled foreign contracts could be finally ratified.

Disclosed in a decree published by the official Congolese Press Agency, Mbuyu's appointment is part of a partial government reshuffle that is seeing the promotion of presidential allies.

Mbuyu is a member of the People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy, the party of head-of-state Joseph Kabila.

He takes the helm at the oil ministry as Congo, whose capital is Kinshasa, vows to boost the development of its oil riches after years of civil strife.

Recent investments in neighboring Uganda and the Republic of Congo, whose capital is Brazzaville, show the increased interest in this part of the world by oil companies.

But a number of foreign companies, including Dominion Petroleum Ltd. (DPL.LN), Soco International PLC (SIA.LN) and Tullow Oil PLC (TLW.LN), are still awaiting a final Presidential decree for licenses in which they have interests in eastern Congo.

The arrival of a new minister close to Kabila should boost the chances of a swift ratification, one person said.

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