The privatisation study is financed by a World Bank-administered grant from the US Agency for International Development. Under the scheme, the commission plans to offer a substantial shareholding and management control of the company to a private investor. Several other options include the division of the company into smaller units. Since it was established in 1935, JPMC has enjoyed a monopoly over the exploration, mining and marketing of Jordanian phosphates. It is the sixth-largest producer and fourth-largest exporter of the mineral in the world.

JPMC runs a wholly owned fertiliser complex in Aqaba, and has investments in three major joint ventures – the local Indo-Jordan Chemicals Company, the Karachi-based FFC-Jordan Fertiliser Company and the Nippon-Jordan Fertiliser Company, which has a production facility in the Aqaba special economic zone. The company set up a fourth joint venture in 1998 with Norwegian firm Norsk Hydroto build a phosphoric acid-manufacturing plant in Al-Sheidyah and a nitrogen potassium phosphate fertiliser plant in Aqaba. However, the estimated $500 million scheme was dropped when Norsk Hydro pulled out of the joint venture in early 2000. JPMC is understood to be in talks with several international companies about resurrecting the projects.

A series of spending cuts helped to boost the company’s net income to JD 2.1 million ($3 million) in 2001, compared with a loss of JD 127.9 million ($180.4 million) posted the previous year. One of the issues propelling privatisation plans is a $100 million Eurobond which JPMC issued in 1997. The proceeds were intended to finance the construction of the Al-Sheidyah plant, but some $77 million was used instead to pay off the company’s debts. The bond, which is traded on the Luxembourg Financial Market, matures in August.