Tanzania: Debt-Ridden Symbion Power Reassures Workers, Creditors

Dar es Salaam — Independent power producer Symbion Power Ltd has appealed to its creditors and staff with valid claims to remain calm, saying it's currently resolving arbitration issues with the Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco).

Last week, a broker issued a liquidation notice under the order of the High Court of Tanzania to liquidate the Symbion plant at Ubungo over Sh12.24 billion debt caused by long-unpaid salaries for its 43 employees. The workers say they have not been paid their salaries for more than 30 months.

The notice - signed by the deputy registrar of the High Court'sDivision of Labor, Warsha Ng'humbu - concerns assets which the company says were already under a creditor. The company's lawyer, Mr Emmanuel Makene, said the seized properties are already held by the Dowans Holding (Costa Rica) over a debt of Sh110 billion, and by the CRDB against a $13 million debt owed to the bank.

However, Symbion chief executive officer Paul Hinks said both creditors and staff should not worry.

"They should be assured that we will be resolving any legitimate and valid outstanding matters once the arbitrations are over - or after we have settled with the government, whichever comes first," he said in a statement.

The firm was established in 2011, replacing Dowans Power Plant with the capacity to generate 120MW of power to be sold to Tanesco for distribution to consumers. But the government trashed the deal in 2016.

Since then, the firm says it has been going through "difficult years" after the company found itself in a legal dispute with Tanesco.

The company says it has two arbitrations that started at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Paris, and at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) at the World Bank in Washington DC. Both are still ongoing.

What transpired in the course of discussions and negotiations between the two sides is yet to be revealed. But, Mr Hinks is optimistic that the matter will be settled amicably.

Asked about the discussions, he refused to go into details.

"There is no doubt that we have experienced a few difficult years in Tanzania. But, I have been in relationships with Tanzania for over 38 years, and it is still my favourite choice on the African continent. I regret that these disputes have also affected our former and current staff, as well as some creditors," he said.

"In fact, the future looks bright for both of us -Symbion and Tanesco-- I am confident that negotiations going on at the international levels/instruments will end up successfully," he added.

" It is no secret that we have been deprived of a huge amount of money that was owed for power we already delivered, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that there have been some problems since Symbion was forced to terminate the Power Purchase Agreement and start dispute resolution in 2016," he noted.

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