The guardian of one of the world’s first oil fortunes, made by striking exploration deals across the Middle East a century ago, said it’s holding talks about the sale of its investments in fossil fuels.
The Lisbon-based Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation said it received an offer for its Partex Oil & Gas unit. While the fortune is a shadow of its value in the 1950s-to-1970s -- the heyday of Middle East oil exploration -- the Partex assets were still worth $720 million at the end of December 2016, according to the unit’s accounts.
The talks come after Rockefeller family funds, whose wealth derives from the father of the U.S. oil industry and founder of what’s today Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp, sold their hydrocarbon investments in 2016.
The foundation guards the remains of a fortune made by Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, who brokered deals in the Middle East between oil companies and governments, and helped to write the so-called “Red Line Agreement” of 1928 that divided some of the region’s petroleum riches. Taking small stakes in the deals he helped to organize and with a holding in the Turkish Petroleum Co., which at the time controlled Iraqi oil, Gulbenkian was known as “Mr. Five Percent” and became one of the world’s richest men.
The potential sale of its investments in fossil fuels takes “into account a new energy matrix and its objectives in terms of sustainability, in line with the international move that other foundations are following,” the foundation said in an emailed statement on Friday. Fossil fuel investments represented about 18 percent of the foundation’s assets in 2017.
Partex holds stakes in concessions in Abu Dhabi and Oman, as well as in blocks in Brazil. The Gulbenkian Foundation didn’t name the parties it was talking to. Local newspaper Publico reported on Friday that CEFC of China is in talks with the foundation.
The foundation said it had received “various” expressions of interest in Partex over the years.
Calouste Gulbenkian, who was of Armenian origin, was born in the Ottoman Empire in 1869 and became a philanthropist and art collector before dying in Lisbon in 1955. The foundation hosts its own orchestra in the Portuguese capital and the founder’s art collection, which ranges from Egyptian antiquities to paintings by Rembrandt and Monet, according to its website.
Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.