Showing posts with label Fitch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fitch. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Crude price, some results & the odd downgrade

We are well into the quarterly results season with oil and gas companies counting costs of the recent oil price slump on their profit margins among other things. The price itself is a good starting point. 

The Oilholic’s latest 5-day price assessment saw Brent nearly flat above US$86 per barrel at the conclusion of the weekly cycle using each Friday this month as a cut-off point (see left, click on graph to enlarge). 

Concurrently, the WTI stayed above $81 per barrel. It is worth observing the level of both futures benchmarks in tandem with how the OPEC basket of crude oils fared over the period. Discounting kicked-off by OPEC heavyweight Saudi Arabia earlier in the month, saw Iran and Kuwait follow suit. Subsequently, the OPEC basket shed over $6 between October 10 and October 24. If Saudi motives for acting as they are at the moment pique your interest, then here is one’s take in a Forbes article. Simply put, it’s an instinct called self-preservation

Recent trading sessions seem to indicate that the price is stabilising where it is rather than climbing back to previous levels. As the Western Hemisphere winter approaches, the December ICE Brent contract is likely to finish higher, and first contract for 2015 will take the cue from it. This year's average price might well be above or just around $100, but betting on a return to three figures early on into next year seems unwise for the moment.

Reverting back to corporate performance, the majors have started admitting the impact of lower oil prices. However, some are facing quite a unique set of circumstances to exasperate negative effects of oil price fluctuations.

For instance, Total tragically and unexpectedly lost its CEO Christophe de Margerie in plane crash last week. BP now has Russian operational woes to add to the ongoing legal and financial fallout of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Meanwhile, BG Group has faced persistent operational problems in Egypt but is counting on the appointment of Statoil’s boss as its CEO to turn things around.

On a related note, oilfield services (OFS) companies are putting on a bullish face. The three majors – Baker Hughes, Halliburton and Schlumberger – have all issued upbeat forecasts for 2015, predicated on continued investment by clients including National Oil Companies (NOCs).

In a way it makes sense as drilling projects are about the long-term not the here and now. The only caveat is, falling oil prices postpone (if not terminate) the embarkation of exploration forays into unconventional plays. So while the order books of the trio maybe sound, smaller OFS firms have a lot of strategic thinking to do.

Nonetheless, we ought to pay heed to what the big three are saying, notes Neill Morton, analyst at Investec. “They have unparalleled global operations and unrivalled technological prowess. If nothing else, they dwarf their European peers in terms of market value. As a result, they have crucial insight into industry activity levels. They are the ‘canaries in the coal mine’ for the entire industry. And what they say is worth noting.”

Fair enough, as the three and Schlumberger, in particular, view the supply and demand situation as “relatively well balanced”. The Oilholic couldn’t agree more, hence the current correction in oil prices! The ratings agencies have been busy too over the corporate results season, largely rating and berating companies from sanctions hit Russia.

On October 21, Moody's issued negative outlooks and selected ratings downgrade for several Russian oil, gas and utility infrastructure companies. These include Transneft and Atomenergoprom, who were downgraded to Baa2 from Baa1 and to Baa3 from Baa2 respectively. The agency also downgraded the senior unsecured rating of the outstanding $1.05 billion loan participation notes issued by TransCapitalInvest Limited, Transneft's special purpose vehicle, to Baa2 from Baa1. All were given a negative outlook.

Additionally, Moody's changed the outlooks to negative from stable and affirmed the corporate family ratings and probability of default ratings of RusHydro and Inter RAO Rosseti at Ba1 CFR and Ba1-PD PDR, and RusHydro's senior unsecured rating of its Rouble 20 billion ($500 million) loan participation notes at Ba1. Outlook for Lukoil was also changed to negative from stable.

On October 22, Moody's outlooks for Tatneft and Svyazinvestneftekhim (SINEK) were changed to negative. The actions followed weakening of Russia's credit profile, as reflected by Moody's downgrade of the country’s government bond rating to Baa2 from Baa1 a few days earlier on October 17.

Meanwhile, Fitch Ratings said the liquidity and cash flow of Gazprom (which it rates at BBB/Negative) remains strong. The company’s liquidity at end-June 2014 was a record RUB969 billion, including RUB26 billion in short-term investments. Gazprom also reported strong positive free cash flows over this period.

“We view the record cash pile as a response to the US and EU sanctions announced in March 2014, which have effectively kept Gazprom, a key Russian corporate borrower, away from the international debt capital markets since the spring. We also note that Gazprom currently has arguably the best access to available sources of funding among Russian corporate,” Fitch said in a note to subscribers.

By mid-2015, Gazprom needs to repay or refinance RUB295 billion and then another RUB264 billion by mid-2016. Its subsidiary Gazprom Neft (rated BBB/Negative by Fitch) is prohibited from raising new equity or debt in the West owing to US and EU sanctions, in addition to obtaining any services or equipment that relate to exploration and production from the Arctic shelf or shale oil deposits.

On the other hand, a recent long term deal with the Chinese should keep it going. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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© Gaurav Sharma, October, 2014. Graph: Brent, WTI and OPEC Basket prices for October 2014 © Gaurav Sharma, October, 2014.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

G7’s crude gripe, “Make oil prices dive”

As the Oilholic prepares to bid goodbye to Dubai, the G7 group of finance ministers have griped about rising oil prices and called on oil producing nations to up their production. They would rather have Dubai Mall’s Waterfall with Divers enclosure (pictured left) act as a metaphor for market direction! It is causing some consternation in this OPEC member jurisdiction and so it should.
 
First the facts – in a communiqué released on the US Treasury’s website yesterday, the G7 ministers say they are concerned about the impact of rising oil prices on the global economy and were prepared to act. Going one step further the ministers called on producing nations, most read OPEC, to act and now.
 
"We encourage oil producing countries to increase their output to meet demand. We stand ready to call upon the International Energy Agency (IEA) to take appropriate action to ensure that the market is fully and timely supplied," the statement notes. We have been here before back in March when American motorists were worried about prices at the pump and President Barack Obama was in a political quandary.
 
Now of course he is barely months away from a US Presidential election and here we are again. In fact the Canadians aside, all leaders elsewhere in the G7 are facing political pressure of some kind or the other related to the crude stuff too. Cue the statement and sabre rattling of releasing strategic petroleum reserves (SPRs)!
 
OPEC and non-OPEC producers' viewpoint, and with some reason, is that the market remains well supplied. Unfortunately plays around paper barrels and actual availability of physical barrels have both combined to create uncertainty in recent months.
 
On the face of it, at its last meeting OPEC – largely due to Saudi assertiveness – was seen producing above its set quota. Oil prices have spiked and dived, as the Oilholic noted earlier, but producers’ ability to change that is limited. Fear of the unknown is driving oil prices. As Saadallah Al Fathi, a former OPEC Secretariat staff member, notes in his recent Gulf News column, “prices seem to move against expectations, one way or another.”
 
Al Fathi further notes that the (West/Israel’s) confrontation with Iran is still on, but it is not expected to flare up. “Even the embargo on Iranian oil is slow to show in numbers, but may become more visible later,” he adds. While an oil shock following an Israeli attack on Iran could be made up by spare capacity, the room for another chance geopolitical complication or natural disaster would stretch the market. This is what spooks politicians, a US President in an election year and the market alike.
 
However, rather than talk of releasing SPRs for political ends now and as was the case in June 2011, the Oilholic has always advocated waiting for precisely such an emergency! While it has happened in the past, it is not as if producers have taken their foot off the production pedal to cash in on the prevailing bullish market trends at this particular juncture.
 
Away from G7’s gripe, regional oil futures benchmark – the Dubai Mercantile Exchange (DME) Oman Crude (OQD) – has caught this blogger’s eye. Oman’s production is roughly below 925,000 barrels per day (bpd) at present. For instance, in June it came in at 923,339 bpd. However, this relatively new benchmark is as much about Oman as Brent is about the UK. It is fast acquiring pan-regional acceptance and the November futures contract is seen mirroring Brent and OPEC basket crude prices. Its why the DME created the contract in the first place. Question is will it have global prowess as a 'third alternative' one day?
 
Elsewhere, the UAE has begun using the Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline (ADCOP). It will ultimately enable Abu Dhabi to export 70% of its crude stuff from Fujairah which is located on the Gulf of Oman bypassing the Strait of Hormuz and Iranian threats to close the passage in the process. However the 400km long pipeline, capable of transporting 1.5 million bpd, comes at a steep price of US$4 billion.
 
Sticking with the region, it seems Beirut is now the most expensive city to live in the Middle East according to Mercer’s 2012 Worldwide Cost of Living survey. It is followed by Abu Dhabi, Dubai (UAE), Amman (Jordan) and Riyadh (Saudi Arabia). On a global footing, Tokyo (Japan) tops the list followed by Luanda (Angola), Osaka (Japan), Moscow (Russia) and Geneva (Switzerland).
 
Meanwhile unlike the ambiguity over Dubai’s ratings status, Kuwait has maintained its AA rating from Fitch with a ‘stable’ outlook supported by rising oil prices and strong sovereign net foreign assets estimated by the agency in the region of US$323 billion in 2011.
 
Finally, on a day when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says Iran has doubled production capacity at the Fordo nuclear site, Tehran has called for ridding the world of nuclear weapons at the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) summit claiming it has none and plans none. Yeah right! And  the Oilholic is dating Cindy Crawford! That’s all from Dubai folks; it’s time for the big flying bus home to London! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!
 
© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Photo: Waterfall at the Dubai Mall, UAE © Gaurav Sharma

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