Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Of IEA, OPEC and the Hoo-Hah over BP & Rosneft

Both the IEA and OPEC are now more upbeat about the global economic recovery over 2011, which could mean only one thing – an upward revision of global crude oil demand. Starting with the IEA, the agency says it now expects global crude demand to rise by 1.4 million barrels a day in year over year terms over 2011 to 89.1 million barrels per day; a revision of 360,000 barrels per day compared to its last forecast.

OPEC also revised its global oil demand forecast putting demand growth at 1.2 million barrels a day for the year; an upward revision of 50,000 barrels per day from its last estimate. In its monthly report, the cartel also noted that demand for its own crude is expected to average 29.4 million barrels of oil per day in 2011; an upward revision of 200,000 barrels over the previous forecast.

Both OPEC and IEA expect the increase in crude oil demand to be driven entirely by emerging markets, while OECD demand is projected to reverse to its "underlying, structural decline in 2011," according to the latter. Their respective response to the forecasts is one of understandable contrasts.

Nobuo Tanaka, head of the IEA, said a subsequent "alarming" rise in the oil price would be damaging. "We are concerned about the speed of the rising oil price, which can harm the growth of economies. If the current price continues, it will have a negative impact," he added. However, OPEC remains unmoved, as the forward month futures spread between Brent and WTI crude continues to widen to US$5-plus in favour of the latter. Both benchmarks lurk close to the US$100-mark.

OPEC’s position unsurprisingly is that the market remains well supplied. Cartel members UAE, Iran, Venezuela and Algeria say they are not concerned about a US$100 per barrel price. In fact, Venezuela's Energy Minister, Rafael Ramirez, described the price of $100 as "fair value" while speaking to the Reuters news agency. There are no prizes for guessing that an emergency meeting of the cartel to raise production is highly unlikely!

Now to the BP-Rosneft tie-up which sent the markets into a tizzy. In a nutshell, news of BP’s acquisition of a 9.5% stake in Rosneft which in turn would bag a 5% stake in BP was good, but it did not quite merit the response it got. Markets cheered it; environmentalists jeered it (given the open invitation to dig in the Arctic).

Rest of the narrative is a bit barmy. First of all, agreed it is a solid deal but given the involvement of a company 75% owned by the Russian government – I am unsure how it would be instrumental or for that matter detrimental to the UK’s petroleum security. Surely, the jury should still be out on that one. Secondly, this in no way implies that BP has turned its back on the US market in light of recent events as some market commentators have opined.

Finally, it is more of a marriage of convenience rather than a historic deal. Rosneft needed technical expertise and does not care much for political rhetoric in western markets about digging deeper and deeper for crude. BP needs access to resources. Both parties should be happy and it is rumoured in the Russian press that TNK-BP would also like a slice of the potentially lucrative Arctic ice cake. Away from the main event, the sideshow was just as engaging.

Curiously city sources revealed that BP did not use its preferred broker JPMorgan Cazenove, but rather opted to go with London-based Lambert Energy Advisory. It did amuse some in the City. All I can say is good luck to Philip Lambert. Finally, talking of the little guys in this crude world – have you heard of AIM-listed Matra Petroleum?

Last I checked, this independent upstart expects to be producing a rather modest 600-700 barrels per day by H1 2011 and its share price is around 3.52p. So assuming, Brent caps US$100-plus by end of H1 2011 and Matra delivers – the share price could treble in theory. I am not making a recommendation – let’s call it an observation!

© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo © Adrian R. Gableson

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