Showing posts with label EBITDA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label EBITDA. Show all posts

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Pump more, even if oil price slumps more mantra

As oil remained in a technical bear market for much of July, we saw well timed quips by major oil producing nations, within OPEC and beyond, fanning chatter of another round of talks aimed at freezing production. And well, its done the trick – both Brent and WTI futures have bounced back from the their low point of August 2, to an above 20% rise as the Oilholic writes this post, i.e. a technical bull run!

Yours truly cannot consciously recommend buying into this phoney rally, because any talks between OPEC and non-OPEC producers face the same impediments as last time, with Iran and Iraq remaining non-committal, and those calling for a freeze (Saudi Arabia and Russia) only willing to do so at record high levels of production. For the Oilholic’s detailed thoughts on the issue, via a Forbes post, click here

However, it’s not just National Oil Companies who are in full on production mode. It seems the largest independent US and Canadian oil exploration and production (E&P) companies are still paying their executives more to focus on boosting production and replacing reserves, rather than conserving capital and reducing debt, according to Moody's.

Only four companies of the 15 companies, the ratings agency sampled in July, even included debt-reduction goals as part of their broader financials, or balance-sheet performance goals. For example, Pioneer Natural Resources (rated by Moody’s Baa3 stable) included a ratio of net debt-to-EBITDAX to account for 15% of its executives' target bonus allocation.

Fourteen of the sampled companies use performance award plans linked to relative total shareholder return. Christian Plath, Senior Credit Officer at Moody's, opined that the strong and direct focus on share prices raises certain credit risks by rewarding aggressive share repurchases and the maintenance of dividends even when cutbacks would be prudent.

“The focus on shareholder returns also reflects the E&P companies' high-growth mindset, and may motivate boards and managers to focus on growth over preserving value. Nearly all of the awards are in some way linked to share-price appreciation. While large companies generally try to tie long-term pay closely to share-price performance, the link appears stronger in the E&P sector,” he said. 

Furthermore, Moody’s found that despite the slump in oil prices that has dented E&P company returns, production and reserves growth targets still comprised almost a quarter of named senior executives' target bonuses in 2015.

“This makes it the most prevalent metric in annual incentive plans ahead of expense management and strategy. Given our pessimistic industry outlook, this system of compensation is negative for credit investors and suggests that many E&P companies are finding it difficult to shed their high-growth strategies," Plath added.

Drawing a direct connection between what Moody’s says from a sample of 15 North American E&P companies and the gradually rising US and Canadian rig counts would be an oversimplification of the situation.

However, taken together, both do point to producers stateside either getting comfortable in the $40-50 per barrel price range or finding ways of carrying on regardless with the full backing of their paymasters. Any price boosting production freeze by global oil producers will be warmly welcomed by them. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it crude! 

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© Gaurav Sharma 2016. Photo: Pipeline warning sign, Fairfax, Virginia, USA © O. Louis Mazzatenta / National Geographic.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Upstream woes denting midstream prospects

In wake of weak oil prices, the upstream side of this ‘crude’ world is going through the worst cyclical downturn in years. The Oilholic’s most conservative of estimates sees the situation staying the way it is, if not worsening, for at least another 15 months.

In fact, one feels fresh investment towards exploration and production (E&P) could remain depressed for as much as 18 to 24 months. Both Fitch Ratings and Moody’s have negative outlooks on the upstream industry, as 2015 looks set to end as the year with the lowest average Brent price since 2005.

National Oil Companies (NOCs), bleeding cash reserves in order to stay in the game and put rivals out of it, are maximising existing onstream capabilities. Meanwhile, International Oil Companies (IOCs) looking to cut costs, are delaying final investment decisions on E&P projects at the moment.

As one wrote on Forbes, Big Oil is gearing up for a $60 breakeven oil price for the next three years and capital expenditure cuts of 10%-15% in 2016 with far reaching consequences. Of course, the pain will extend well beyond the obvious linear connection with oilfield services (OFS) and drilling companies.

Global midstream growth is getting hammered by E&P cuts too, according anecdotal evidence from reliable contacts at advisory firms either side of the pond. Most point to a Moody’s subscriber note issued on November 6, that set out the ratings agency’s stable outlook on the US midstream sector, but also suggested that industry EBITDA [Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation] growth will struggle to cap 5% in 2016.

Andrew Brooks, Senior Analyst at Moody’s, noted: "For the past five years, the midstream industry has rapidly ramped up investment in infrastructure projects to serve the E&P industry's extensive investment in US oil and gas shale resource plays. 

"But now deep cuts in the E&P sector and continued low oil and natural gas prices will limit midstream spending through at least early 2017."

There was a sense in Houston, Texas, US when the Oilholic last went calling in February and again in May this year that midstream companies have already built much, if not most, of the infrastructure required for US shale production. Therefore it is only logical for ratings agencies and analysts to suggest incremental EBITDA growth will slow as fewer new shale and tight oil assets go into service. 

Only thing in midstream players' favour over the next, or quite possibly two, lean fiscal year(s) is the linkage they provide between producers and downstream markets. In Moody’s view this need would mitigate some of the risk of slower growth, even if gathering and processing margins remain at cyclical lows.

"And the midstream sector should be more insulated from contract renegotiation risk with upstream operators having less flexibility to force price concessions on midstream services companies than they have had with OFS firms and drillers," Brooks concluded.

So all things considered, midstream is perhaps not as deeply impacted as E&P, OFS segments of the oil and gas business, but suffering it most certainly is. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2015. Photo: Pipeline signage, Fairfax, Virginia, USA © O. Louis Mazzatenta / National Geographic


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