A Hyphen Hydrogen Energy shareholder has offered to sell international oil and gas companies a stake in the Namibian project, for more than N$3 billion.
It’s unclear whether international companies would be interested, especially since they could have gotten involved for free two years ago when the government selected Hyphen.
This move comes as senior government officials, such as green hydrogen commissioner James Mnyupe, appear to be pushing international oil companies to team up with Hyphen, which is co-owned by South African businessman Brian Myerson.
The latest push by the government comes two years after awarding Hyphen a tender to implement a N$190-billion green hydrogen project.
Hyphen is owned by Nicholas Holdings (51%), while the remaining 49% is owned by German firm Enertrag. The government has committed to acquiring a 24% stake (N$45 billion) in the project.
According to some reports, Namibian taxpayers will be required to pay at least N$14 billion to sponsor this shareholding.
Hyphen aims to build a green hydrogen power project in the Tsau //Khaeb National Park, a former diamond mining area in the Namib Desert in south-western Namibia.
It has now emerged that Nicholas Holdings, founded by Myerson, has been approaching international companies to sell a portion of its stake for more than €150 million (over N$3 billion). The Namibian understands that the government is aware of the proposed share sale.
Some industry players interpret this as another reason for the government to be wary of selecting a company which does not have the financial and technical muscle to execute the project.
Officials such as Mnyupe are said to know that the project depends on international support and could fail without it.
CONSORTIA OF PARTNERS
Hyphen chief executive Marco Raffinetti yesterday told The Namibian that Namibia has attracted interest from potential consortium partners looking at investing in the country’s green hydrogen industry.
“This interest is driven by a combination of the quality of Namibia’s renewable resources and its world-leading position in the development of its hydrogen strategy and diplomacy, which places the Hyphen project among the lowest-cost and most advanced large-scale green hydrogen projects globally,” he said.
Raffinetti said following the signature of the concession agreement with the Namibian government in May this year, the project has moved on to the next phase of its development, which among all the other detailed work streams, includes the process of selecting consortia partners.
“The process of the selection of consortia partners will not be a once-off event, but is likely to continue up to the financial close of phase one of the project, and potentially beyond that,” Raffinetti said.
“Hyphen has appointed international investment bank Lazard to assist in some of these discussions,” he said.
The green hydrogen project has been met with scepticism by some.
Red flags have been raised about the Namibia Green Hydrogen Council being led by the corruption-accused National Planning Commission director general, Obeth Kandjoze. He has also faced allegations of misleading the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
The government has faced criticism since 2021 on how they picked Hyphen for the contract, including concerns over the manner in which the tender was awarded.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has questioned the transparency around the selection of Hyphen.
“Over four months since the announcement of Hyphen as the preferred technical partner to kick-start Namibia’s green hydrogen project, transparency around the procurement process remains decidedly lacking,” the IPPR says.
Frederico Links, a researcher at the IPPR, has taken issue with the fact that neither the Office of the President nor the Central Procurement Board have published information or documentation on the request for proposals within seven days of awarding.
“No such notice or summary has been published on the websites of the National Planning Commission (NPC) or the Office of the President, over four months after the award was made,” Links stated.
The IPPR has also raised question marks about Hyphen shareholder Brian Myerson, a businessman who has made news headlines over the years.
The IPPR says it has asked Mnyupe about what due diligence had been conducted on the entities and officials involved in Hyphen Hydrogen Energy.
“Of specific interest was Principle Capital Group and its officials, especially executive chairperson Brian Alan Myerson, a South African businessman.”
The IPPR has cited several cases it has found on the internet involving Myerson, including a BBC news report in 2010 which said the businessman was banned in 2010 for what was reported to be collusive and misleading conduct, as well as covering up an attempt to gain control of a firm they were involved in.
“Articles also come up of Myerson losing court cases in property disputes in South Africa from as recent as 2020, as well as his non-compliance with a court order to compensate a former employee over unfair dismissal a few years ago,” the IPPR says.
Myerson has denied any wrongdoing.
Questions sent to Mnyupe were not answered by the time of going to print.