Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Of Mid-Nov Price Correction, BP & Lukoil

The price of crude has seen a fair bit of fluctuation week over week and I agree with analysts at Société Générale CIB who noted on Tuesday that "the modest short-term crude price correction has been driven by investor profit-taking, as well as an end to a surge in gasoil cracks, which had temporarily supported crude prices."

Prices actually peaked on Wednesday and Thursday of last week. Since then, the front-month crude prices have eased by US$2-3. At 18:05GMT on Tuesday, WTI forward month contract was trading at US$80.65/bbl and ICE Brent at US$83.60/bbl.

Elsewhere in this crude world, it was revealed on Tuesday that BP’s Rhim field off the coast of Scotland has been shutdown as it is understood that the field turned out to be a joint venture between it and financiers related to Iranian oil. The shutdown was triggered because extraction from the field could be in contravention of existing European Union sanctions against Iran, issued in October.

The company it is now seeking clarification from the UK government on how the sanctions would apply. Elsewhere, S&P Ratings Services affirmed its 'BBB-' long-term corporate credit rating and 'ruAA+' Russia national scale rating for Lukoil last week.

Concurrently, S&P also removed the ratings from CreditWatch, where they were placed on July 29, 2010. S&P credit analyst Andrey Nikolaev said, "The affirmation reflects our improved assessment of Lukoil's liquidity position, which we now assess as 'adequate' after the company successfully issued a $1 billion Eurobond."

S&P also anticipates that Lukoil will extend the terms of its committed credit lines over the next several weeks. "We now estimate Lukoil's ratio of sources to uses of liquidity at about 1.2x, factoring in the committed credit lines with the terms to be extended," Nikolaev added in an investment circular.

S&P views Lukoil's business risk profile as "satisfactory", underpinned by large and profitable upstream and downstream operations, which are largely concentrated in Russia. The ratings agency also views Lukoil's financial risk profile as 'intermediate', based on its modest debt leverage and our perception that it has fairly good access to bank funding and capital markets.

© Gaurav Sharma 2010. Photo: Andrew Rig, North Sea © BP Plc

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