Showing posts with label Austria. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Austria. Show all posts

Friday, May 31, 2013

As expected OPEC quota stays at 30 mbpd!

As widely expected and in line with market expectations, the 163rd OPEC meeting of ministers ended with the 12 members of the oil exporting club keeping their official collective production quota right where it was – at 30 million barrels per day (bpd).
 
OPEC noted that the “relative steadiness” of crude oil prices during 2013 (to-date) was an indication that the market was adequately supplied, with “the periodic price fluctuations being a reflection of geopolitical tensions.”
 
However, the cartel felt that whilst world economic growth was projected to reach 3.2% in 2013, up from 3% in 2012, downside risks to the global economy, especially in the OECD region, remain unchecked.
 
OPEC said that world oil demand is expected to rise from 88.9 million bpd in 2012 to 89.7 million bpd in 2013, driven “almost entirely” by the non-OECD regions. It also projected non-OPEC supply to grow by 1.0 million bpd.
 
OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem el-Badri said, “Taking these developments into account, the second half of the year could see a further easing in fundamentals, despite seasonally-higher demand. In light of the foregoing, we have in decided that member countries should adhere to the existing production ceiling of 30 million bpd.”
 
El-Badri was not prepared to discuss the individual members’ quotas, a figure which OPEC no longer releases for publication. The Secretary General also revealed that no agreement was reached over the election of his successor with the same three candidates – viz the two protagonists Majid Munif (Saudi Arabia) and Gholam-Hussein Nozari (Iran) with compromise candidate Thamir Ghadban (an Iraqi official) – being in the frame.
 
“The candidates remain the same, but if a fresh name comes up then we will examine his/her credentials in the usual way,” the Secretary General said. In his response to the debate about shale’s impact on OPEC members’ fortunes and a possible rise in their spare capacity, El-Badri said the impact of unconventional oil production remains uncertain and if it resulted in a rise in OPEC’s spare capacity then there was no reason to be alarmed.
 
“I am in the business of conventional. The way I see it is that if it is a causative factor in a rise in OPEC’s spare capacity then I say why not? What’s the harm? The International Energy Agency (IEA) cannot have it both ways. Before the shale debate began, the agency expressed alarm at the perceived lack of OPEC’s spare capacity. Now when there is a perception that our spare capacity would rise, they again see it as a problem,” he added.
 
El-Badri said OPEC members would, if required, take steps to ensure market balance and reasonable price levels for producers and consumers, and respond to developments that might place oil market stability in jeopardy. OPEC said its next meeting will convene in Vienna, Austria, on Dec 4, 2013. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!
 
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© Gaurav Sharma 2013. OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem el-Badri speaks at the conclusion of the 163rd OPEC meeting of ministers © Gaurav Sharma, May 31, 2013.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

OPEC 'holds' production at 30 mbpd as expected

OPEC decided to maintain production at 30 million barrels per day (bpd) in line with market expectations following the conclusion of its 161st meeting here in Vienna. Frustrated at unilateral increases in production by Saudi Arabia, the cartel merely noted in a statement that member countries “should adhere to the production ceiling.”

How on earth OPEC will monitor whether (or not) members flout their quota is open to question as individual quotas were shunned last year. All it can do is hope the Saudis, who are currently dovish on the price of crude, decide to cut back.

The Oilholic is reliably informed that five other OPEC members, excluding the usual suspect Iran, urged the Saudis to respect the ceiling and cut back production. At least three oil ministers left OPEC HQ whinging that members ought to respect the production ceiling and that an oil price below US$100 per barrel was unacceptable. Unsurprisingly they hailed from Iran, Algeria and Venezuela. Apparently even the UAE is unhappy but no one from their delegation openly criticised the Saudis at the end of the meeting.

On supply-demand permutations, OPEC noted that although world oil demand is projected to increase slightly during the year, this rise is expected to be mostly offset by the projected increase in non-OPEC supply.

In addition, comfortable OECD stock levels – which presently are below the historical average in terms of absolute volumes but well above the historical norm in terms of days of forward cover – indicate that there has been a “contra-seasonal stock” build in the first quarter 2012 and this overhang is predicted to continue throughout 2012 according to the cartel. Stocks outside the OECD region have also increased. Taking these developments into account, the second half of the year could see a further easing in fundamentals, despite seasonally-higher demand, it said.

OPEC also said it reviewed recent oil market developments, as well as the outlook for the second half of 2012, noting that the heightened price volatility witnessed earlier this year was a reflection of geopolitical tensions and increased levels of speculation in the commodities markets, rather than “solely a consequence of supply/demand fundamentals.”

Furthermore, the cartel observed heightened Eurozone sovereign debts concerns and the consequent weakening economic outlook, with its concomitant lower demand expectation, continue to mount. “These ongoing challenges to world economic recovery, coupled with the presence of ample supply of crude in the market, have led to the marked and steady fall in oil prices over the preceding two months,” it concluded.

Meanwhile no decision has been taken as yet on who would replace OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem al-Badri of Libya with four member countries having proposed candidates – old rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran along with perceived compromise candidates in Iraq and Ecuador. Finally, OPEC will convene for its 162nd meeting in Vienna on December 12, 2012. However, some delegates left suggesting that if economic fundamentals deteriorate further an extraordinary meeting maybe called before December.

On a lighter note, so predictable was the outcome of the 161st meeting, that the Oilholic’s blog post from December 14, 2011 (on the 160th meeting) notched up a quite a few clicks from ‘Googlers’ searching “OPEC outcome” and “30 million bpd” before one could biff out this post. As was the case on December 14, 2011, so it was on June 14, 2012 – the ‘official’ production quota remains capped at 30 million bpd.

This is the first instance since yours truly has been blogging or reporting from OPEC, when the price of the crude stuff has dipped more than 10% over a fiscal quarter and the cartel has not responded with a cut in its output. Given whats going on in the Eurozone, a cooling in India and China and a poor US recovery, Brent is unlikely to find a medium term US$100 price floor. If anyone thought there was a counterweight to the Saudis within OPEC, this outcome is your answer! That’s all for the moment folks. Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Photo: OPEC Logo, Vienna, Austria © Gaurav Sharma 2012.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

OPEC hawks are back in town (too)!

So the crude games have begun, the camera crews have begun arriving and the Saudis have begun throwing down the gauntlet by first suggesting that OPEC actually raise its output and then indicating that they might well be happy with the current production cap at 30 million bpd. However, hawks demanding a cut in production are also in Vienna in full flow.

With benchmark crude futures dipping below US$100, the Venezuelans say they are “concerned” about fellow members violating the agreed production ceiling. In fact, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez expressed his sentiments directly over the air-waves rather than leave it to his trusted minister at the OPEC table - Rafael Ramirez.

For his part, on arrival in Vienna, Ramirez said, “We are going to make a very strong call in the meeting that the countries that are over-producing cut. We think we need to keep the ceiling on production of 30 million that was agreed at our last meeting in December."

Iraq's Abdul Kareem Luaibi, told a media scrum that a “surplus in OPEC supplies” exists which has led to “this severe decline in prices in a very short time span.” Grumblings also appear to be coming from the Algerian camp, while the Kuwaitis described the market conditions as “strange.”

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Kuwait’s Oil Minister Hani Hussein said, “Some of OPEC members are concerned about the prices and what’s happening…about what direction prices are taking and production.”

However, Hussein refused to be drawn into a discussion over a proposed OPEC production cut by the hawks.

Meanwhile, one cartel member with most to fear from a dip in the crude price – Iran – has also unsurprisingly called for an adherence to the OPEC production quota. Stunted by US and EU sanctions, it has seen its production drop to 3 million bpd - the lowest in eight quarters. Much to its chagrin, regional geopolitical rival Saudi Arabia has lifted its global supply to make-up the absence of Iranian crude in certain global markets.

At the cartel’s last meeting in December, OPEC members agreed to hold ‘official’ output at 30 million bpd. Yet, extra unofficial production came from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait. Say what you will, the Oilholic is firmly in the camp that a reintroduction of individual OPEC quotas to help the cartel control its members’ production is highly unlikely. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Photo: Broadcast media assembly point outside OPEC HQ, Vienna, Austria © Gaurav Sharma 2011.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

UK & Norway: A ‘crudely’ special relationship

Unconnected to the current systemic financial malaise in Europe, a recent visit to Oslo by British Prime Minister David Cameron for a meeting with his Norwegian counterpart Jens Stoltenberg went largely unnoticed. However, its ‘crude’ significance cannot be understated and Cameron’s visit was the first by a British Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher’s in 1986.

Beaming before the cameras, Stoltenberg and Cameron announced an "energy partnership" encompassing oil, gas and renewable energy production. As production from established wells has peaked in the Norwegian and British sectors of the North Sea, a lot has changed since 1986. The two principal proponents of exploration in the area are now prospecting in hostile climes of the hitherto unexplored far North – beyond Shetland Islands and in the Barents Sea.

Reading between PR lines, the crux of what emerged from Oslo last week is that both governments want to make it easier for firms to raise money for projects and to develop new technologies bearing potential benefits in terms of energy security. That Cameron is the first British PM to visit Norway in decades also comes as no surprise in wake of media reports that the Norwegian sector of the North Sea is witnessing a second renaissance. So of the growing amount of oil the UK imports since its own production peaked in 1999 – Norway accounts for over 60% of it. The percentage for British gas imports from Norway is nearly the same.

"I hope that my visit to Oslo will help secure affordable energy supplies for decades to come and enhance investment between our two countries. This will mean more collaboration on affordable long-term gas supply, more reciprocal investment in oil, gas and renewable energies and more commercial deals creating thousands of new jobs and adding billions to our economies," Cameron said.

For their part the Norwegians, who export over five times as much energy as they use domestically, told their guest that they see the UK as a reliable energy partner. We hear you sir(s)!

Meanwhile, UK Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) latest production data released this morning shows that extractive industries output fell by 15% on an annualised basis in April with oil & gas production accounting for a sizeable chunk of the decline.

A further break-up of data suggests oil & gas production came in 18.2% lower in April 2012 when compared with the recorded data for April 2011. Statisticians say production would have been higher in April had it not been for the shutdown of Total’s Elgin platform in the North Sea because of a gas leak.

Elsewhere, farcical scenes ensued at the country’s Manchester airport where the airport authority ran out of aviation fuel causing delays and flight cancellations for hours before supplies were restored. Everyone in the UK is asking the same question – how on earth could this happen? Here’s the BBC’s attempt to answer it.

Finally the Oilholic has found time and information to be in a position to re-examine the feisty tussle for Cove Energy. After Shell’s rather mundane attempt to match Thai company PTTEP’s offer for Cove, the Thais upped the stakes late last month with a £1.22 billion takeover offer for the Mozambique-focused oil & gas offshore company.

PTTEP’s 240 pence/share offer improves upon its last offer of 220 pence or £1.12 billion in valuation which Shell had matched to nods of approval from Cove’s board and the Government of Mozambique. The tussle has been going on since February when Shell first came up with a 195 pence/share offer which PTTEP then bettered.

Yours truly believes Cove’s recommendation to shareholders in favour of PTTEP’s latest offer does not guarantee that the tussle is over. After all, Cove recommended Shell’s last offer too which even had a break clause attached. Chris Searle, corporate finance partner at accountants BDO, feels the tussle for control may end up with someone overpaying.

“I’m not surprised that PTTEP have come back in for Cove since the latter’s gas assets are so attractive. Of course the danger is that we now get into a really competitive auction that in the end will lead to one of the bidders overpaying. It will be interesting to see how far this goes and who blinks first,” he concludes.

Cove’s main asset is an 8.5% stake in the Rovuma Offshore Area 1 off the coast of Mozambique where Anadarko projects recoverable reserves of 30 tcf of natural gas. Someone just might end-up overpaying.

On the pricing front, instead of the Spanish rescue calming the markets, a fresh round of volatility has taken hold. One colleague in the City wonders whether it had actually ever left as confusion prevails over what messages to take from the new development. Instead of the positivity lasting, Spain's benchmark 10-year bond yields rose to 6.65% and Italy's 10-year bond yield rose to 6.19%, not seen since May and January respectively.

Last time yours truly checked, Brent forward month futures contract was resisting US$97 while WTI was resisting US$82. That’s all for the moment folks! The Oilholic is off to Vienna for the 161st OPEC meeting of ministers. More from Austria soon; keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Photo: Oil Rig in the North Sea © Royal Dutch Shell.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Third Time Lucky for OMV?

OMV’s takeover of Turkey’s Petrol Ofisi A.S. should be applauded for the Austrian company’s sheer persistence in its attempts to acquire strategic assets, if nothing else. It has a mixed record at best when it comes to takeover attempts, as I was joking with my old colleague CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick at the OPEC summit in Vienna ten days ago.

OMV was successful in acquiring Romania’s Petrom in 2004 but failed spectacularly in its takeover attempt of Hungary’s MOL which was swiftly and successful rejected by the Hungarians in June 2007. As I had just arrived in Vienna from Budapest, Steve said, as only Steve can, that I’d been "MOL"-ing over OMV’s fortunes in the wrong city. The failed bid for MOL aside, OMV also tried and failed to acquire utility Verbund.

In a statement on Friday, OMV said the Turkish acquisition, slated at €1 billion ($1.4 billion) is a further step in its growth strategy and aims at "positioning Turkey as a third hub, besides Austria and Romania."

OMV would now own 95.75% of the Turkish company after buying out Dogan Holding's stake of 54.17% stake in it; formalities are set to be completed within the next three months. The companies have also agreed to pay a dividend to Petrol Ofisi shareholders prior to that.

Ahead of the announcement, ratings agency Standard & Poor’s noted that Petrol Ofisi's credit profile would benefit were OMV to become its majority owner. It placed the Turkish company’s 'B+' long-term corporate credit ratings on CreditWatch with positive implications.

Per Karlsson, credit analyst at Standard & Poor's, said, "The positive implications of the CreditWatch placement reflect our view that should such a transaction materialize we are likely to raise the ratings on Petrol Ofisi by one notch or more."

As for takeover attempts – looks like OMV has been third time lucky!

© Gaurav Sharma 2010. Photo: Photo: OMV Petrol Station, Austria © OMV

Monday, October 18, 2010

Final Thoughts From the 157th OPEC Conference

Alongside Thursday’s decision by OPEC to hold its official oil production target at 24.84 million barrels a day, i.e. the level set following a production cut in December 2008; the cartel also noted that global oil demand had dipped in two concurrent years; a situation unseen since the 1980s.

It bemoaned the “rollercoaster” ride in crude prices, particularly between Q4 2007 and Q1 2009. As usual speculators were blamed, with OPEC noting that oil had increasingly emerged as an asset class, with “excessive speculation adding appreciably to market volatility.”

It also appears that the cartel is irked by renewable energy initiatives or at least the talk of renewable energy. OPEC believes that the ambiguity of a number of energy and environmental policies, often with “evidently over-ambitious targets”, particularly in developed regions, has led to uncertainty in regards to future oil demand requirements.

The 158th OPEC conference would be held in Quito, Ecuador on December 11th, where the cartel hopes to publish its Long Term Strategy, as discussed by its 12 member nations here in Vienna on Thursday. Following that, OPEC would meet again in June 2011 in Vienna.

In a surprise move, it was confirmed Iran would assume OPEC presidency in January 2011; it last held the post in 1975. And last but not the least, there is finally a lady at the OPEC table – Nigeria's petroleum minister - Diezani Kogbeni Alison-Madueke, who having been a Shell executive took a certain amount of delight in telling the assembled press scrum that she had been in male dominated industries before and pretty much held her own!

To summarise, OPEC – in line with prevailing sentiment – noted that the market remains well supplied and given the downside risk to the global economy, did not feel the need to raise production.

That’s it from Vienna – time to say Auf Wiedersehen!

© Gaurav Sharma 2010. Photo: Nigeria's petroleum minister Diezani Kogbeni Alison-Madueke (Centre), © Gaurav Sharma, OPEC 157th Conference, Vienna, Oct 14, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Is Big Oil Really "Big" Any More?

A number of energy journalists have been asking this question at a pace which has gathered momentum over the past decade. Books have even been written about it. On Oct 7th, a week prior to Thursday’s OPEC conference, I had the pleasure of participating in a discussion under the auspices of S&P and Platt’s which touched on the subject in some detail, contextualising it with the Peak Oil hypothesis.

Here in Vienna, understandably, I find few takers for the hypothesis; at least not at OPEC HQ. But one statement has struck me. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of OPEC's foundation, in his opening address to the conference earlier on Thursday, Wilson Pástor-Morris, Minister of Non-Renewable Natural Resources of Ecuador and President of the Conference, noted:

“OPEC began as a group of five heavily exploited, oil-producing developing countries seeking to assert their sovereign rights in an oil market dominated by the established multinational oil companies. Today OPEC is a major player on the world energy stage. Our 12 Member Countries are masters of their own destiny in their domestic oil sectors and their influence reaches out into the energy world at large.”

Need one say more? OPEC feels NOCs are dominant; so does much of the rest of the market to a great extent. Pástor-Morris also said the issue production quota 'compliance' also featured in OPEC discussions, as the cartel reviews its production agreement.

“But we shall not lose sight of the bigger picture. Neither should anyone else. The achievement of market order and stability is the responsibility of all parties. It is not just a burden for OPEC alone. We all stand to gain from market stability, and so we must all contribute to achieving it and maintaining it,” he added.

© Gaurav Sharma 2010. Photo: Holly Rig, Santa Barbara, California, USA © James Forte / National Geographic Society

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