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how Perenco’s offshore oil profits end up back in Europe

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At first glance, the property at 15 Stratford Place in London and Cáceres’s future shopping centre in Spain have nothing in common. The former is an elegant neo-classical building in the affluent district of Marylebone. It is home to a Qatari bank and used to be the studios of Edward Lear, a Victorian painter. The second is a vast construction site near a motorway, soon to house shops and cinemas in the outskirts of Cáceres, an ancient Spanish city in the rural region of Extremadura. 

The two properties could hardly look more different. Yet money to acquire both hailed from the offshore vaults of the same family, the Perrodos, sole owners of Europe’s self-styled “leading” independent energy company: Perenco.

Despite being headquartered between Paris and London, where the Perrodos also live, Perenco registered its top holdings in the Bahamas. The group extracts no fossil fuel in the island nation, but dividends there are untaxed, allowing for a fruitful scheme that shelters oil revenues before ploughing them back into various European investments. 

To acquire 15 Stratford Place in 2015, the Perrodos spent nearly £40 million using two shell corporations: Clipille Ltd in the Bahamas and Slipview Ltd in Guernsey. To buy land for the new shopping complex in Cáceres, they created a string of companies in Luxembourg and offshore.

The Perrodos acquired 15 Stratford Place, in London, through companies in the Bahamas and Guernsey.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of the Perrodos’ real estate empire built on oil profits housed in tax havens. While accusations of pollution have multiplied against Perenco recently – leading to a lawsuit in France following IE’s revelations of the group’s environmental damage in the Democratic Republic of Congo – the Perrodos have amassed an impressive investments portfolio shrouded in secrecy. 

In London alone, they have funnelled over £462 million of tax haven funds into the property market. In Luxembourg, the family’s assets are worth over €2 billion, spanning from real estate in Spain and Portugal, to famous French vineyards and shares in food and technology companies, in Sweden, Ireland and France. 

In a statement sent to IE, a spokesperson for Perenco said: “Each investment made is fully compliant with all tax and disclosure requirements and all laws in force in the countries of operation and no company managed by the family office is subject to any tax investigation.”

“All companies are correctly registered for tax,” the spokesperson added, and investments made outside of oil and gas support the growth of businesses while providing “increased employment and benefits to the economy.”

Properties in London’s poshest areas

Across the UK capital, the Perrodos have bought entire blocks of flats, offices and luxury homes in some of the city’s most opulent neighbourhoods. 

Analysis of land and corporate registries reveals how the properties were either directly procured by shell companies in the Bahamas and Guernsey, or by their British subsidiaries with offshore money from interest-free loans. 

The amount of £462 million is an estimate based on purchase prices from the land register or investments in filed accounts. The real number is probably much bigger. IE’s calculation does not cover unavailable data or homes bought by the Perrodos directly in their own names. What is more, the price of many of the properties has skyrocketed since they were first bought, which means the family’s portfolio has only grown in value.

The majority of purchases happened after 2013, but the first one can be traced back to 2000. Some of the priciest investments discovered include: £85 million in 2013 for Perenco’s headquarters by Oxford Circus, £21.5 million in 2016 for a mansion near Holland Park, and £15.7 million in 2018 for Nash House, an office block in Mayfair.

Maxence PeignéNash House, an office block in Mayfair, London.

Today, many of the Perrodos’ companies with real estate in London don’t disclose their beneficial owners. To unearth them, IE looked at their shareholders: the family’s offshore entities and trusts, or at their registered addresses and managers: Perenco’s headquarters and directors.  

This is despite rules requiring ownership declarations for British businesses since 2016, and for overseas companies with property in England by the end of January 2023. 

“All companies owning UK real estate, wherever incorporated, are registered and tax payable in the UK in full compliance with HMRC [the fiscal authorities] rules,” the Perenco spokesperson said.

The Perrodos’ personal wealth in Britain goes far beyond real estate. They have two family offices in the country. First is BNF Capital, an investor in Rolls-Royce’s nuclear plans, that counted former Perenco boss Jean-Michel Runacher as its executive director until recently. Father of French Energy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher, he was removed from the corporate register on the day IE and Disclose published revelations about their potential conflict of interest.

Second is Perwyn, a private equity firm that claims €2.5 billion of assets under management. IE found numerous links between Perwyn and tax havens, notably the Bahamas, Guernsey, Gibraltar and Luxembourg.

With offshore cash, the family also funded three restaurants in London and backed an online wine retailer that has since fallen into administration.

An impressive portfolio in Luxembourg

Perenco’s shareholders have feathered their nest away from home too. In Luxembourg, IE located 89 companies connected to the Perrodos. For those where current shareholding patterns are clear, analysis shows that the family owns at least €2 billion worth of assets in the Grand Duchy, according to the latest corporate filings. Three quarters of these firms have real estate investments as their main purpose, mostly in Spain and Portugal, but also in Panama and the US.

In the Iberian peninsula, the Perrodos are co-founders of Kronos, property developer with an expected turnover of €500 million this year. From Lisbon to Barcelona, the group has built seafront homes, residential towers and shopping centres, including the one underway in Cáceres. 

Kronos’s top structure consists of a myriad of entities in Luxembourg: management companies, financial funds and projects holdings with Spanish and Portuguese subsidiaries.

In the Grand Duchy, the Perrodos appear as the main investors in dozens of Kronos companies, with shares held by corporate shells in tax havens.

“In this specific case [in Luxembourg] the Perrodo family may be the majority shareholder, but that does not mean that they are the majority shareholders of the projects that we manage,” Kronos told IE, insisting that their shareholding is “quite diversified”.

Lebanese financier Saïd Salim Hejal, CEO of Kronos, is a recurring partner. Others are TIAA, a US pension fund, and Françoise Bettencourt, the world’s richest woman at the helm of cosmetics multinational L’Oréal.

Property development is not the only sector attracting the Perrodos to the tax-friendly European country. From Luxembourg, the family also oversees its wine ventures, with a €328 million holding controlling vineyards in south-west France, as well as a 22.6% stake in Taittinger, a world-famous Champagne producer.

Other stakes include 79.7% of French online media Konbini, 9.5% of French start-up Wynd, and several acquisitions made under their Perwyn family office, such as Miss Group, a Swedish web hosting provider; and Isla Delice, France’s leading halal meat manufacturer – according to the latest corporate filings in the Luxembourg registry.

Nearly €1 million of tax avoided in a Spanish project

In addition to exploiting tax havens to channel their European investments, the Perrodos also use offshore vehicles to extract profits from their subsidiaries and joint ventures.

Shell companies they set up in Luxembourg, Guernsey and the Bahamas have two ways of doing this. One is to collect dividends from affiliates across Europe, the other is through intra-group loans with interests far above market trends.

Let’s take one example in Spain. In 2020, Kronos completed H2O, a modern complex with 252 flats and 18 retail units in Badalona, a coastal suburb of Barcelona. Behind the project is a Luxembourg company created in 2015, Barkeno sarl, whose main owners are the Perrodos, with 68% of the shares.

Between 2015 and 2017, Barkeno received €19 million from Tchack Limited, a Bahamian firm belonging to the family. It immediately turned the money into loans for Barkeno Developments, its Spanish subsidiary in charge of building H2O for Kronos. The agreed interest rate was an exorbitant 8%, far above market trends.

By comparison, Barkeno Developments received further funding from a Spanish bank in 2015, €20 million, with interests between 2.5% and 3%.

The agreed interest rate for the money lent to Barkeno Developments was 8%, far above market trends.

Why would any company accept to fork out three times more for a loan from its shareholders, when banks charge far less? The answer is simple: to pay less tax while allowing owners to reap more gains.

In that regard, Barkeno Developments turned out to be extremely profitable for the Perrodos. In total, almost €16.5 million of profits stemming from the H2O project left Spain for the Grand Duchy and further afield.

By 2021, Barkeno Developments had sent over €12.6 million of dividends to its Luxembourg parent and repaid its entire loan, with an additional €5.8 million interest. That’s €3.8 million more than a bank would have asked. 

As this amount is seen as an expense, the company was able to reduce its profit accordingly. And since Spanish tax on profits is 25%, Kronos avoided handing nearly €1 million to the treasury. 

Kronos told IE that these loans were under no circumstances given to charge affiliates extra costs. “Such interest rates cannot be compared to bank loans, as the latter are normally secured by a mortgage on the real estate, whereas investors face higher risks,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Two Spanish tax experts IE consulted disagree. Corporate tax law, they argue, states that intra-group operations between companies with the same owners must be carried out at “market value”.

“[Barkeno] would have to be practically bankrupt to ask for money with an interest rate of 8%,” observed a tax inspector, adding that this would only be acceptable if the company was unable to get funding anywhere else.

This practice is not uncommon in the Perrodos’ corporate world. In fact, IE found similar loans with interests between 7% and 10% in the latest filings of 18 Luxembourg companies where the family is a clear majority shareholder.

A similar ruse also happened in the UK in 2019. Mact Holding, a British firm registered via the Bahamas, granted two £3 million loans with 15% interests to joint ventures partly owned by the family and developing luxury flats in west London.

Just as Barkeno in Spain, this bloated rate was far above market trends, as a British bank also granted the project multi-million pound loans with just 5.25% interest rates.

Sometimes, Perenco’s owners chose to set up real estate companies in their names rather than with offshore intermediaries. While this means that they cannot conceal their identity, the sums invested are as astronomical as usual. One such example in the UK is Fanagan Ltd, a firm set up for “residents property management” with a capital of £100 million.

If direct ownership is a rare occurrence for the Perrodos’ businesses in the UK, it seems to be often the case in France. In their country of origin, real estate firms held in their own names bought millions of euros of properties, with a particular focus on the sun-drenched South East and ski resorts in the Alps. These have included a €20 million villa near Saint-Tropez and several chalets, some for €10 million or more.

Asked about the numbers in this article, a spokesperson for the Perrodos said: “As a private business, the family office does not provide details on individual investments beyond what is publicly available and it is an expectation that any reporting on public information should be clear that all legal requirements have been followed.”

#PerencoFiles is an ongoing investigation in partnership with french Non-profit newsroom Disclose and is supported by the IJ4EU Investigation Support Scheme.

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ICE London 2023 to feature exhibitors from record 68 nations – IAG

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Industry trade show ICE London will feature exhibitors from a record 68 nations, topping the previous best of 65 set three years ago, according to organizer Clarion Gaming.
ICE London returns as a full-sized show for the first time since 2020 from 7 to 9 February, with the total 623 exhibitors representing everything from Argentina to Australia and Macau to Mexico.
“No other exhibition in the gaming space can come anywhere near the internationalism of ICE,” said Clarion Gaming Managing Director, Stuart Hunter.
“To have 68 nations represented by our community of exhibitors means that visitors are immediately part of what is a global experience with unique access to the smartest gaming innovators drawn from every corner of the world. There are very few exhibitions of scale in any industry sector which are able to compare with such international representation and legitimately lay claim to being a ‘global’ or a ‘world’ event.
“Once an event is recognized as being genuinely international, stakeholder groups including brands, regulators, trade associations, media groups and strategic industry-wide bodies focus their activities accordingly.
“Research that we’ve undertaken has shown that for many people ICE and iGB Affiliate London actually start on the Sunday preceding and finish on the following Saturday. In that week we estimate that over 100 gambling industry events will take place outside of the show hours providing a new and compelling perspective on why ICE and iGB Affiliate London are so influential and important to the world industry.”
IAG will have a team of four at ICE London next week. Visit us at Stand ND7-C.

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David Ford and Annie Dressner Live in London

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There’s something special about London on a Saturday night – there’s a certain buzz in the air as you head into the Capital city. For me that buzz was extra special, as I was going to see David Ford and Annie Dressner at The Lexington in Islington. I literally listened to their ’10 Days (Live)’ album for the first time a week ago, but since then it’s been on repeat and heading in I knew that the night was going to be special.
The Lexington is a great place for music, with a bar on the ground floor before heading up the winding stairs to the spacious venue itself. And as the crowd started coming in, the atmosphere in the room was growing by the minute.
Opening the night was Scottish singer songwriter Gary Stewart. He set the night off really well, with an engaging set that got the crowd onside from the start. He opened with his 2021 single ‘Hot To Trot‘ and you already knew the set was going to be a good one – a rousing folk song with great lyrical dexterity. The highlight of the set was ‘Frontlines’, a simply gorgeous song (check out a YouTube video of the song here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDCLwYwsesk). Gary ended with a fine cover of Paul Simon’s ‘Song for the Asking’.
It was time for a quick visit to the bar before settling down for the main event. 
The duo appeared on the stage to great applause, David in an orange shirt and Annie in a sparkling black dress. They opened with ‘Easy Falling’, the first song that I’ve ever heard of theirs, and a song that convinced me I needed to listen to the rest of the album. This slow and moving number is a touching love song and shows off the brilliant harmonies of David and Annie – there’s something special about the English (David) and US accents (Annie) mingling in the way that they do. 
Throughout the set, there were so many highlights. ‘Something I’ll Have to Learn‘ is a song with an almost timeless feel that feels like a conversation in song, Annie’s original ‘Strangers Who Knew Each Other’s Names‘ was simply brilliant and ‘Some Folks Are Lucky I Guess‘ is a song with a great sentiment. ‘Can’t Help What I Want‘ (below) is a great example of those brilliant harmonies that the two share.

‘Trash‘, a cover of the Suede hit, was a particular highlight – a song that was a nice surprise on the live album. As they break into ‘Oh maybe, maybe it’s the clothes you wear‘ it almost feels like this was a song that Suede wrote for David and Annie, their version is that good. Outstanding.
The set had a second cover, a song that Annie introduced as ‘an American classic‘. This classic was ‘Ain’t No Pleasing You‘ from Chas and Dave, a song that typified the cockney sound of London back in the 1980’s. I love the way they re-worked it and there was something special about the way Annie sings the word ‘Darling’ in her US twang that just resonated and put a smile on my face.
There were great moments of humour throughout the night, the chat between the two great. At one point mid-song, Annie passed her guitar to David, exclaiming ‘I knew there were chords in this song, I just didn’t know which ones‘ which had the crowd laughing.
The best of the night was saved till last. ‘Warning Sign’ had quickly become my favourite song from the pair and hearing it live in person lived up to all expectations. There’s such a beauty in live music, and hearing songs like this with other people in a venue can really bring a song home – and almost even change your own personal relationship with a song.
The final song of the night (there was no encore as David explained that they literally had no more songs!) was ‘Put Me In A Corner’. Annie’s vocals take the lead in this track and it was just magical, the emotion of the song emanating from the stage and filling the room. You can listen and see for yourself below.

You never know what to expect when you see an artist or artists perform for the first time. Some exceed expectations and some just don’t hit the heights you expect. In David Ford and Annie Dressner, it was definitely the former. The gig was stripped back – just two people on a stage creating a moment. And what a moment it was.
Annie and David and reviewer Nick Cantwell
Check out their websites and hit and follow the social links!
http://www.dressnerford.com/

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http://anniedressner.com/
***Note – I need to say a word about the audience for the gig. The audience was impeccable, with barely any talking at all at any point (apart from whispered orders at the bar). Credit goes to Gary, Annie and David, who managed to grab the audience from the start, but also to everyone there. If you were there yourself, give yourself a high five!***
Review written by Nick Cantwell (instagram.com/nickcantwellmanagement)
 
 
 


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Graduate Organist vacancy in London and Home Counties – Church Times

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Graduate Organist vacancy in London and Home Counties  Church Times

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