Showing posts with label BG Group. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BG Group. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

BG Group’s been ‘Shell-ed’

In case you have been away from this ‘crude' planet and haven’t heard, oil major Royal Dutch Shell has successfully bid for its smaller FTSE 100 rival BG Group in a cash and shares deal valuing the latter at around £47 billion (US$70 billion).

While it’s early days into the current calendar year, the deal, subject to approval by shareholders, could be one of the biggest of 2015 producing a company with a combined value of over £200 billion.

For the Anglo-Dutch oil major, BG Group's acquisition would also add 25% to its proven oil and gas reserves and 20% to production capacity, along with improved access to Australian and Brazilian prospects. BG Group shareholders will own around 19% of the combined group following the deal.

BG Group's new chief executive Helge Lund, who only took up the post last month, will remain with the company while the deal is being worked on. However, he is expected to leave once it is completed walking away with what many in the City reckon to be a £25 million golden goodbye. The Oilholic thinks that’s not too bad a deal for what would come to little over three months of service.

BG Group shareholders, who’ve had to contend with a lacklustre share price for the last 12 months given the company’s poor performance, can also expect a decent windfall should they choose to sell. The bid values BG at around 1,350p per share; a near 50% premium to its closing price of 910.4p on Tuesday. If they decide to hold on to their shares, they’d be likely to receive an improved "Shell of a dividend" from a company that has never failed to pay one since 1945.

Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden said, "Bold, strategic moves shape our industry. BG and Shell are a great fit. This transaction fits with our strategy and our read on the industry landscape around us."

The market gave the news a firm thumbs up. Investec analyst Neill Morton said BG’s long-suffering shareholders have finally received a compelling, NAV-based offer while Shell’s bid was arguably “20 years” in the making.

“We agree that BG’s asset base is better suited to a larger company, but the economics require something approaching Shell’s $90/bl assumption. Consequently, we do not expect a rival bid and are wary of this catalysing a flurry of copycat deals. But we are also mindful that investment bankers can be very persuasive! We suspect Shell aims to re-balance dividends versus buybacks over the long-term. This could imply lower dividend growth,” he added.

As for the ratings agencies, given that the deal completion is scheduled for H1 2016, and quite possibly earlier given limited regulatory hurdles, Fitch Ratings placed Shell's ratings on Rating Watch Negative (RWN) and BG Group's ratings on Rating Watch Positive (RWP).

The agency aims to resolve the Rating Watches on both companies pending the successful completion of the potential transaction and “once there is greater clarity with regard to Shell's post-acquisition strategy and potential synergy effects.” We’re all waiting to hear that, although of course, as Fitch notes – Shell's leverage will increase.

“Our current forecasts suggest that the company's funds from operations (FFO) adjusted net leverage will increase from 1.5x at end-2014 to around 2x in 2015-2017 based on conservative assumptions around the announced $30 billion divestment programme and execution of the announced share buybacks from 2017.”

Moody’s has also affirmed its Aa1 rating for Shell, but quite like its peers changed the company’s outlook to negative in the interim period pending the completion of the takeover. Meanwhile, some City commentators have speculated that Shell's move might trigger a wave of M&A activity in the oil and gas sector.

However, the Oilholic remains sceptical about such a rise in M&A. In fact, one is rather relieved that the Shell and BG Group saga would cool nonsensical chatter about a possible BP and Shell merger (oh well...there's always ExxonMobil).

They’d be the odd buyout or two of smaller AiM-quoted independents, but bulk of the activity is likely to remain limited to asset and acreage purchases. Of course, consolidation within the sector remains a possibility, but we are too early into a cyclical downturn in the oil market for there to be aggressive overtures or panic buying. However, 2016 could be a different matter if, as expected, the oil price stays low.

Moving away from the Shell and BG show, here is one’s take via a Forbes column on how oil markets should price in the Iran factor, following the conclusion of pre-Easter nuclear talks between the Iranians and five permanent members of UN Security Council plus Germany.

Additionally, here’s another one of the Oilholic’s Forbes posts on why a decline in US shale activity is not clear cut. As it transpires, many shale producers are just as adept at coping with a lower oil price as any in the conventional industry. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2015. Photo: Vintage Shell petrol pump, San Francisco, USA © Gaurav Sharma

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Maintaining 2014 price predictions for Brent

Since the initial flare-up in Iraq little over a fortnight ago, many commentators have been revising or tweaking their Brent price predictions and guidance for the remainder of 2014. The Oilholic won't be doing so for the moment, having monitored the situation, thought hard, gathered intelligence and discussed the issue at length with various observers at the last OPEC summit and 21st World Petroleum Congress earlier this month.

Based on intel and instinct, yours truly has decided to maintain his 2014 benchmark price assumptions made in January, i.e. a Brent price in the range of US$90 to $105 and WTI price range of $85 to $105. Brent's premium to the WTI should in all likelihood come down and average around $5 barrel. Nonetheless, geopolitical premium might ensure an upper range price for Brent and somewhere in the modest middle for the WTI range come the end of the year.

Why? For starters, all the news coming from Iraq seems to indicate that fears about the structural integrity of the country have eased. While much needed inward investment into Iraq's oil & gas industry will take a hit, majority of the oil production sites are not under ISIS control.

In fact, Oil Minister Abdul Kareem al-Luaibi recently claimed that Iraq's crude exports will increase next month. You can treat that claim with much deserved scepticism, but if anything, production levels aren't materially lower either, according to anecdotal evidence gathered from shipping agents in Southern Iraq.

The situation is in a flux, and who has the upper hand might change on a daily basis, but that the Iraqi Army has finally responded is reducing market fears. Additionally, the need to keep calm is bolstered by some of the supply-side positivity. For instance, of the two major crude oil consumers – US and China – the former is importing less and less crude oil from the Middle East, thereby easing pressure by the tanker load. Had this not been the case, we'd be in $120-plus territory by now, according to more than one City trader.

Some of the market revisions to oil price assumptions, while classified as 'revisions' have been pragmatic enough to reflect this. Many commentators have merely gone to the upper end of their previous forecasts, something which is entirely understandable.

For instance, Moody's increased the Brent crude price assumptions it uses for rating purposes to $105 per barrel for the remainder of 2014 and $95 in 2015. In case of the WTI, the ratings agency increased its price assumptions to $100 per barrel for the rest of 2014, and to $90 in 2015. Both assumptions are within the Oilholic's range, although they represent $10 per barrel increases from Moody's previous assumptions for both WTI and Brent in 2014 and a $5 increase for 2015.

"The new set of price assumptions reflects the agency's sense of firm demand for crude, even as supplies increase as a response to historically high prices. New violence in Iraq coupled with political turmoil in that general region in mid-2014 have led to supply constraints in the Middle East and North Africa," Moody's said.

But while these constraints exist, Moody's echoed vibes the Oilholic caught on at OPEC that Saudi Arabia, which can affect world global prices by adjusting its own production levels, has appeared unwilling to let Brent prices rise much above $110 per barrel on a sustained basis.

Away from pricing matters to some ratings matters with a few noteworthy notes – first off, Moody's has upgraded Schlumberger's issuer rating and the senior unsecured ratings of its guaranteed subsidiaries to Aa3 from A1.

Pete Speer, Senior Vice-President at the agency, said, "Schlumberger's industry leading technologies and dominant market position coupled with its conservative financial policies support the higher Aa3 rating through oilfield services cycles. The company's growing asset base and free cash flow generation also compares well to Aa3-rated peers in other industries."

Meanwhile, Fitch Ratings says the Iraqi situation does not pose an immediate threat to the ratings of its rated Western investment-grade oil companies. However, the agency reckons if conflict spreads and the market begins to doubt whether Iraq can increase its output in line with forecasts there could be a sharp rise in world oil prices because Iraqi oil production expansion is a major contributor to the long-term growth in global oil output.

The conflict is closest to Iraqi Kurdistan, where many Western companies including Afren (rated B+/Stable by Fitch) have production. However, due to ongoing disagreements between Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government, legal hurdles to export of Iraqi crude remain, and therefore production is a fraction of the potential output.

Other companies, such as Lukoil (rated BBB/Negative by Fitch), operate in the southeast near Basra, which is far from the areas of conflict and considered less volatile.

Alex Griffiths, Head of Natural Resources and Commodities at Fitch Ratings, said, "Even if the conflict were to spread throughout Iraq and disrupt other regions, the direct loss of revenues would not affect major investment-grade rated oil companies because Iraqi output is a very small component of their global production."

"In comparison, disruption of gas production in Egypt and oil production in Libya during the "Arab Spring" were potential rating drivers for BG Energy Holdings (A-/Stable) and Eni (A+/Negative), respectively," he added.

On a closing note, here is the Oilholic's latest Forbes article discussing natural gas pricing disparities around the world, and why abundance won't necessarily mitigate this. That's all for the moment folks. Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2014. Photo: Oil drilling site © Shell photo archives

Monday, February 03, 2014

Keystone XL revisited, some results & fossil fuels

Despite it having been a mad few days of 'crude' results, the Oilholic feels there is only one place to start this post – the US State Department's recent take on the Keystone XL project.

The Department's review of the project or should you like formalities – its Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement – noted that it had "no objections" on any major environmental grounds to the cross-border 1,179 mile-long Alberta to Texas pipeline extension project.

Its take, of course, pertains to 875 miles of proposed pipeline construction across US jurisdictional control which has been the subject of immense controversy with everyone from the American workers' unions [flagging-up job creation] to environmentalists [warning about risk of spillage] weighing in.

So is the end of the saga close with a thumbs-up from the State Department? Sadly, not quite, not yet! A 30-day public comment period has begun and is scheduled to end on March 7. During this time, "members of the public and other interested parties" are encouraged to submit comments on "the national interest determination."

Then the ultimate decision has to be made by the ditherer-in-chief, President Barack Obama, who is yet to make his mind up, pending reviews from "other government agencies" and the public at large.

As expected, the State Department's statement is full of waffle. Hoping not to annoy either those for or against the project, it took no firm stances in the Oilholic's opinion. However, there is one very clear, in fact explicit, conclusion by the department, from this blogger's reading of it – Alberta's oil sands will be developed Keystone XL or not!

In a related development impact assessment, it also noted – perhaps in no small part down to recent incidents and accidents – that using the rail network to transport crude was an even worse option than the pipeline itself, if a carbon footprint was the deciding factor. The so-called "other agencies", most notably the Environmental Protection Agency, now have around 90 days to comment before the State Department finally issues its "final" recommendation to the President.

Then there would be no excuses or reasons for stalling left and we should know either ways by the summer. One thing is for sure, the Americans have formally acknowledged that cancelling the pipeline extension won't stop E&P activity in the oil sands. So if that's what the environmentalists are after, there's some food for thought. One wishes, the State Department read this blog more often. Yours truly could have saved them a lot of time and money in reaching such a blatantly obvious conclusion.

For TransCanada's sake, which first applied for a permit from the US government as far back as 2008, the Oilholic hopes the US$7 billion project does go ahead. Stepping away from pipeline politics, to some 'crude' financial results over the past week, one cannot but feel for BG Group's Chief Executive Chris Finlayson.

In a geopolitically sensitive industry, Finlayson's team could not be apportioned blame when he announced that group earnings would dip by 33% on an annualised basis to around $2.2 billion, owing to unrest in Egypt. In the backdrop of domestic strife, the Egyptian government has not honoured agreements covering BG Group's share of gas from fields in the country, with high levels of gas being diverted to the domestic market.

Unable to fulfil its export obligations, the company had to serve force majeure notices to affected buyers and lenders, in effect releasing all sides from contractual obligations for circumstances beyond their control. Hence, a company deemed to be high-flier in the oil & gas world was - albeit temporarily - made to look like a low-flapper boosted by occasional gusts of gas...er sorry wind!

As Egypt accounts for over 20% of its annual production at present – BG Group's profit warning made its shares take a plastering following the trading update on January 27, dipping 18% at one point. The price is currently in the £10 to £11 range and most analysts are nonplussed. For instance, Liberum Capital cut BG Group to hold from buy, with the target cut from £14.75 to £12.80. Investec analyst Neill Morton cut the group's EPS forecast for 2014 and 2015 by 22% and 16% respectively.

"However, we do not believe that a takeover is likely (or even possible?) for a $60 billion company which is likely to command a substantial takeover premium. The key challenges over the next 18 months are the developments in Brazil and Australia which still run the risk of further issues, in our view (for e.g. the Brazil development is being done by Petrobras)," Morton added.

While BG Group was warning on profits, supermajor Shell wasn't exactly covering itself in glory. Following on from a pretty substantial profits warning, Shell's profits [outstripping the effect of oil price fluctuations came] in at $2.9 billion for the last quarter of 2013, down from $5.6 billion noted over the same period in 2012. The market was already well prepared for a dip in performance from Shell, but much to this blogger's surprise, new chief executive Ben van Beurden said the company's strategy presentation [slated for March 13] would contain no fresh targets on production, capex and asset disposal.

Odd indeed, and if one might humbly add – Shell's asset disposal, especially if similar drives at BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips are to be used as measuring rods, seems a bit random! The Anglo-Dutch company said it was targeting disposals of $15 billion in the current financial year, and had stopped exploration in Alaska.

Its stake in the Australian Wheatstone project is expected to go, and a 23% stake in the Brazilian Parque das Conchas (BC-10) offshore project already has gone, subject to regulatory approvals. Ratings agency Fitch said such moves were positive, but added: "It remains to be seen whether Shell will take the opportunity that this flexibility affords it to retrench, or be tempted into shareholder friendly actions that could threaten its 'AA' credit rating."

Finally, ExxonMobil – biggest of the publicly traded IOCs by market value – also saw its profits below market expectations after a failure to offset declining production with fresh reserves. For the fourth quarter, it posted a net income of $8.35 billion, or $1.91 per share, compared with $9.95 billion, or $2.20 per share, over the same quarter in 2012. Those picky analysts were hoping for $1.92 to $1.94 per share – some will never be pleased!

Forget the analysts, here's an interesting article on what Warren Buffet sees in ExxonMobil to help draw conclusions on the "quintessential defensive stock." In response to his company's latest financials, chief executive Rex Tillerson promised to move ahead with new exploration projects.

Away from results, oil majors and minors ought to take notice as it seems oil might be overtaken by coal as the dominant primary energy source worldwide by 2017, according to the IEA. Adding further weight to this hypothesis, Worldwatch Institute's recent Vital Signs Online study noted that natural gas increased its share of energy consumption from 23.8% to 23.9% during 2012, coal rose from 29.7% to 29.9%, while oil fell from 33.4% to 33.1%.

Coal, natural gas, and oil, collectively accounted for 87% of global primary energy consumption in 2012. Finally, OPEC's 'long-standing' Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri has said its member nations will be able to handle the extra oil "expected to come from Iran, Iraq and Libya" to head off any oversupply.

We believe you sir, but it'll be kinda hard to keep a trio gagging for an export impetus to toe the line, say us supply-side analysts. Hopefully, oversupply or even the perception of oversupply should bring the price of the crude stuff down a fraction and may be price positive for consumers. Hence, a month into 2014, yours truly stands by his price forecast. That's all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2014. Photo 1: The White House, Washington DC, USA © Gaurav Sharma, April 2008. Photo 2: Shell tanker truck at Muscat International Airport, Oman © Gaurav Sharma, August 2013.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Greening up the USA’s oil capital

The Oilholic finds himself in Houston, Texas once again, feeling the pulse of the oil & gas market and catching-up with contacts old and new. But on this latest visit, yours truly has also picked up a new whiff of green! It seems the US oil capital's efforts to lower its carbon emissions and flag up its green credentials are bearing fruit in more ways than one.

Some of the ongoing efforts are not immediately apparent to outsiders. For instance, energy efficiency codes for the city's many skyscrapers have been completely redrawn and revised upwards as the Oilholic realised after stepping inside a few and have it confirmed by contacts.

More importantly, despite the new codes being non-mandatory for commerical establishments, most – including some of the largest oil companies in the world with offices here – have adopted them up and down Main Street and beyond with much gusto.

Here is something even more surprising, and one had to double-check with the City's Directorate of Sustainability and a contact at the EIA – the Houston Metropolitan Area is indeed the USA's largest municipal purchaser of renewable energy. Furthermore, over a third of it is sourced locally from Texan wind farms whose state-wide number alone exceeds many European countries taken as a whole.

Moving on to efforts that are clearly apparent, the Oilholic noted a few this afternoon having criss-crossed Downtown Houston on foot going left on Dallas Street from Main Street, turning on to Bagby Street and then right back up on Prairie Street in the other direction. For starters, a bike sharing programme has been underway since May 2012. While still in its infancy, Houston's answer to London's Boris bikes is commendable.

Under so-called the Houston B Cycle initiative, riders can provide their details online, purchase and get on-ground bike shares in Downtown, Midtown and the Museum District. Even some of the docking stations are solar powered (see photo right). Away from the programme, the City of Houston offers over 300 miles interconnected bikeway network spanning across 500 square miles and most public transport vehicles are 'bike storage' friendly.

Moving on from two wheels to four, more than half of the 10 or so official city vehicles spotted by this blogger were – hear this – either electric or hybrid. Courtesy a partnership between the Downtown District, BG Group and Houston First Corporation, you can also see GreenLink buses zipping by (see below left). Around seven of these circle the Downtown area, running on CNG and you can ride on them for free!

Houston Metro's light rail line, started in 2004, is fast expanding and adding three new lines. A farmers' market comes into town every week to sell locally sourced produce. And finally, a chance encounter with a Centerpoint Energy engineer at a downtown bar, led to another discovery that 75% of the traffic lights in Houston use LED bulbs!  

The city's criss-crossing freeways, erratically scattered green spaces and rush hour traffic often disguise the effort it has made to go green over the last 10 years.

The fact that it is the USA's fourth largest city and its fifth largest metropolitan area (atop being Texas' largest) with some 6 million-plus inhabitants, makes the progress made even more noteworthy. In 1999, Houston was the city with the dirtiest air quality in the country; today it is outside the worst ten, according to the American Lung Association.

One mute point though, which makes a lot of this blog's Texan friends chuckle – it seems eight of the worst ten cities in terms air quality are from 'green' California. One apiece from Indiana and Pennsylvania make-up the rest! What the Oilholic has catalogued above has been achieved in a short space of a decade. So here's to the next ten say locals. That's all for the moment from Houston folks! More soon, keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2013. Photo1:  Skyline of Downtown. Photo 2: Houston B Cycle docking station at Bayou Place. Photo 3: GreenLink buses collage, Houston, Texas, USA © Gaurav Sharma, November 2013.

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