Tuesday, May 12, 2015

UK election result's impact on British Energy Inc

By all accounts, result of the UK General Election on May 7 was simply stunning. Pollsters got it horribly wrong, Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party returned with a majority against all expectations, Scottish National Party bagged 56 out of 59 parliamentary seats in the ‘oil hub’ of Scotland - all the ingredients to excite politically minded scribes and the general public alike. The Oilholic began his experience at Ellwood Atfield’s splendid election night bash in Westminster (photo above left) ushering in news of the first exit poll predicting the Conservatives were going to be the largest party with 316 members of parliament.

As events unfolded into early hours of the morning and late afternoon the next day, Cameron’s Conservatives returned with 331 MPs and a slim majority putting to bed all talk of a hung parliament. This blogger was up when Labour heavyweights Ed Balls, Douglas Alexander, Jim Murphy and Liberal Democrats ministers Vince Cable, Ed Davey, Lynne Featherstone and Danny Alexander all lost their seats.

Resignation of the hapless Labour leader Ed Miliband who managed to deliver his party’s worst election result since 1983 followed, along with that of Nick Clegg, now former deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader. Cameron soon walked back into Downing Street after meeting the Queen and telling her he’d now form a majority Conservative government.

Having enjoyed the drama of election night well into sunrise the next day, it’s worth pondering what the result means for the UK’s energy industry in general and the oil and gas business in particular. Afterall, the Oilholic did fret about the direction of the market in his pre-election column for Forbes.

For starters, Ed Miliband’s barmy energy price freeze isn’t going to happen. A daft idea, daftly presented to maximum populist effect just didn’t work and is now in the dustbin of political history. This blogger expects ratings agencies to ease up both on UK-listed energy utilities Centrica, the owner of British Gas, and SSE, another service provider as well as the sector in general

Unsurprisingly, both stocks jumped as the entire London market welcomed the result on May 8 morning with the FTSE 100 momentarily returning back above 7,000 points. Nonetheless, Cameron’s government faces a very serious challenge of planning investment towards creaking energy infrastructure – from nuclear to renewables – ensuring the lights are kept on. By some estimates, the required capital expenditure could be as high as £330 billion by 2030.

Switching to the mainstream oil and gas business, both the Conservative victory in the UK and an SNP landslide in Scotland are broadly positive for various reasons. As this blogger has noted before, Chancellor George Osborne’s taxation policies turned positive for the industry towards the end of the last parliament, as the oil price decline began to bite North Sea players

Collective measures put into effect back in March imply that the UK’s total tax levy would fall from 60% to 50%, giving a much needed breather to those prospecting in the North Sea. Any further stimulus measures for the better are unlikely to be disrupted by the SNP, even if they do have a broader agenda of roughing up other government programmes both North and South of the Scottish border.

This is broadly good for the industry, as it goes through a challenging period and grapples with the restructuring in Aberdeen triggered by companies as large as BP and as small as independent operations services providers. 

Finally, turning attention to the new energy minister Amber Rudd, a Conservative MP for Hastings, who has been appointed as the successor to Ed Davey; the choice is a great one. Obviously, her credentials are solid or she wouldn’t be here. Gauging the response of the wider industry, most have welcomed the appointment.

Rudd is seen as conscientious and hard working minister. Even Greenpeace sent out a release welcoming her to the job, hoping that she’d bring the same energy to implementing the Climate Change Act, as she did to fight the corner of fisheries in her last government remit.

With a challenging portfolio, Rudd has her work cut out and we wish her well, especially as she sets about the arduous task of attracting investment to the sector. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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To email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

© Gaurav Sharma 2015. Photo: Ellwood Atfield election night party, May 7, 2015 © Gaurav Sharma

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