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Lebanon to hold gasoline tender amid supply concerns

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By Reuters
Lebanon to hold gasoline tender amid supply concerns
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Minister of Energy and Water, Nada Boustani Khoury speaks during an interview with Reuters at her office in Beirut, Lebanon, August 21, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir   -   Copyright  MOHAMED AZAKIR(Reuters)

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon will hold a tender for gasoline in December, Energy Minister Nada Boustani said on Friday, as it looks to stave off a potential supply shortage brought on by worsening economic conditions.

A state tender for gasoline is unusual in import-dependent Lebanon, where fuel is typically procured by private companies. But nationwide protests over the poor state of the economy have led to bank closures, which in turn impacted traders’ ability to buy from abroad.

A tender from the Energy and Water Ministry said Lebanon sought 150,000 tonnes of 95 octane gasoline and the deadline for offers is Dec. 2.

“I expect good results from the tender and from there we will see how the market will move,” Boustani told broadcaster LBC.

The central bank said last month that it would prioritise foreign currency reserves for fuel, medicine and wheat but many traders say their ability to transfer payments to suppliers has been complicated by the bank closures.

Fadi Abou Chakra, spokesman for Lebanon’s petrol stations union, said private fuel imports were ongoing and that crisis had been averted after the start of the central bank scheme, which covers 85% of their dollar needs.

Banks, which were shut for half of October, closed again this week over staff security concerns. Most transfers out of the country have been blocked and, with U.S. dollars scarce, the pegged Lebanese pound is weakening on the black market.

(Reporting by Nadine Awadalla, Ellen Francis and Eric Knecht; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and David Evans)