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Court Seizes Malaysia Oil Firm Assets Amid $15 Billion Dispute

A Luxembourg court has issued seizure orders for two units of Malaysia’s state oil company Petronas as part of an arbitration case brought against the Malaysian state by the descendants of a now-defunct sultanate in the Philippines.

The court case is based on a deal made in the late 19th century by European colonists of Southeast Asia with the then-sultan of Sulu for the use of local land. Now, this land is part of Malaysia, which honored the 19th-century deal until 2013 and, as part of it, paid the descendants of the sultan $1,000 annually.

The descendants of the sultan have sued Malaysia for $15 billion after it stopped making the payments following a violent uprising by supporters of those descendants.

Malaysia has refused to accept the arbitration case ruling, which was made in February 2022 and in favor of the sultan’s descendants, in France. Soon after, the two Luxembourg subsidiaries of Petronas were served with seizure orders. After the news broke, Petronas said it would take steps to protect its overseas assets from seizure.

"Petronas contests the validity of these enforcement actions against its two aforementioned subsidiaries and is taking all necessary measures to defend its legal position," the Malaysian state oil major said last July.

One of these steps was to get a stay of the seizure order from a Luxembourg court yet the stay appears to have not been final.

Meanwhile, at home, Petronas launched a new tender for 10 exploration blocks along with two clusters of so-called discovered resource opportunities. Most of the 10 blocks are in three producing basins—Malay, Sabah, and Sarawak—and there are several in the new Penyu basin.

Earlier this month, the Malaysian state oil major signed production-sharing agreements for nine exploration blocks it awarded in last year’s tender.

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By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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