Congo Billionaire Seeks French Loan to Develop Iron-Ore Railway – by Elie Smith (Bloomberg News – May 17, 2018)

Paul Obambi, a billionaire investor in the Congo Republic, is in talks with French lenders to fund a railway he’s building to export iron ore.

Obambi’s company SAPRO SA is negotiating with “a consortium of banks” to finance the 450-kilometer (280-mile) track that will link the southwestern town of Mayoko to a port at Pointe Noire, he said in a phone interview from Paris on Tuesday.

Construction is expected to start next year and be completed by 2022, he said, without saying how much it would cost. SAPRO operates an iron-ore project at Mayoko acquired from Pretoria, South Africa-based Exxaro Resources Ltd.

in 2016. Exxaro sold the enterprise after failing to secure port and rail agreements with the Congolese government, booking a 5.76 billion-rand ($460 million) writedown in the process. Obambi, one of Congo’s wealthiest individuals, says he’s worth about $1 billion.

Since buying Exxaro’s operations for $350 million, SAPRO has invested $550 million in Mayoko, which produced 3 million metric tons of iron ore last year, Obambi said.

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