Thursday, April 29, 2010

Shell Q1 2010 Profits up 49%

Following on from BP’s bumper profit announcement on Tuesday, Royal Dutch Shell declared a quarterly profits rise of nearly 50% today. In a corporate announcement, the oil giant said profits for the first quarter of the year came in at $4.9 billion; a 49% appreciation on profit noted over the corresponding quarter of 2009.

A marked improvement in the price of crude, despite current wobbles, meant Q1 2010 profit was also well above the $1.2 billion profit figure noted over Q4 2009. In a statement, Shell chief executive Peter Voser said improved first quarter profits were "driven largely by our own actions," which included new explorations and organic production growth.

Looking ahead, Voser said, "So far in 2010, oil prices have remained firm, and demand for petrochemicals has increased, but refining margins, oil products demand and spot gas prices all remain under pressure. Although there are signs of an improving economic outlook, we are not relying on it."

It goes without saying that the average crude oil price of $75 per barrel seen this year has helped Shell as well as its peers, for it is a far cry from an average price of $41 per barrel seen in wake of the global financial crisis. Furthermore, Voser himself said last month that the era of cheap oil was over. Question is how expensive will it be in the short-term?

© Gaurav Sharma 2010. Photo Courtesy © Royal Dutch Shell

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Credit Suisse Revises Oil Price Estimates

Credit Suisse revised its oil price estimates this month. On April 15, in a note to investors, the Swiss bank raised its 2010 oil price estimate from US$70 per barrel to $82.90. Concurrently, the 2011 estimate was raised from $70 to $80. CS analysts noted that $80 per barrel provides “a better balance of an oil price which encourages marginal investment in new production, without crimping demand during the economic recovery phase, than (our) previous forecast of $70 per barrel.”

In a related development, four days later, Bank of America Merrill Lynch noted that the spike in oil prices from $80 per barrel to $87 per barrel came along with a rapid deterioration in the term structure of the WTI market. BoA-ML analysts feel that a surge in demand for storage, as spot oil prices rally, is an unusual event. They suggest that further oil price appreciation is unlikely in the short run.

“Rising on-shore stocks around Cushing, more floating storage in the Middle East, additional non-OPEC crude oil and a partial shutdown of European air space (last week) will likely limit further oil price advances near term. We thus maintain our second quarter 2010 average Brent and WTI crude oil price forecast of $83 per barrel. Looking ahead, we remain structurally bullish and still believe in our average $92 per barrel WTI crude oil forecast for the second half of 2010,” they noted further.

Meanwhile quarterly profits at UK oil giant BP more than doubled in year over year terms, according to results published earlier today. Replacement cost profit for January to March 2010 was $5.6 billion, compared with $2.4 billion for the first quarter of 2009. The figure is also up from the $3.45 billion in profit noted over the fourth quarter of 2009.
© Gaurav Sharma 2010. Photo Courtesy © BP Plc

Monday, March 29, 2010

Cairn’s Indian Find Continues to Excite

Cairn Energy’s oilfields in the Indian state of Rajasthan continue to excite. In a trading statement last week, the company raised its estimate of reserves from 175,000 barrels of oil per day to a potential 240,000 barrels of oil. Cairn’s stock rose nearly 11.5% intraday as the markets greeted the news with much gusto as did the Indian media given the oily needs of the country’s burgeoning economy.

Cairn also hopes the opening of a new 590 km pipeline over the second quarter of 2010, which will connect the Mangala oilfield to Salaya port (in Gujarat state), would further fire-up production. Currently, oil from Mangala is transported by road haulage tankers.

In other trading data, Cairn posted an operating profit of $53 million in 2009, up from $11 million in 2008. Its Chief Executive Sir Bill Gammell also sounded optimistic about the company's prospects in Greenland. Cairn is to prospect for oil at four drilling sites in Baffin Bay and estimates these areas could contain over 4.0 billion barrels of oil.

Sir Bill says, "It’ll take stamina, skill and indeed luck to find hydrocarbons in the area." That was probably his philosophy when he bought his company’s Indian assets from Royal Dutch Shell; and it sure has yielded dividends.

In contrasting fortunes, it seems drilling for the crude stuff off the Falkland Islands coast may not be economically feasible after all the argy-bargy between UK and Argentina. The prospect of oil in the region renewed diplomatic spats with the Argentine Government complaining to the UN and launching fresh claims of sovereignty on the Falkland Islands, over which in went to war with the British and lost.

UK promptly rejected the recent claims on basis of the right of self-government of the people of the Islands "underpinned by the principle of self-determination as set out in the UN charter". The people are happy to be British subjects and have been for over a century. All the caterwauling now sounds foolish and premature.

In a corporate announcement in London on Monday, Desire Petroleum – one of the British companies prospecting for oil in the area – said initial results from its Liz 14/19-1 well, in the North Falkland basin prospection zone, showed quantities of oil may be small and of poor quality.

Shares in Desire, recently named among Deloitte’s upstream upstarts, ended Monday trading in London down nearly 50%. Rockhopper Exploration, another company drilling in the region with a 7.5% interest in the Liz well, saw its shares tumble 25.5%. Other regional players also took a hit across the board. Desire Petroleum will need to drill further and deeper than anticipated if it has the will to find better quantities of oil and gas. "It will not be possible to determine the significance of the hydrocarbons encountered and whether the well will need to be drilled deeper, suspended for testing or plugged and abandoned," the company said.

© Gaurav Sharma 2010. Photo Courtesy © Cairn Energy Plc

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

OPEC Holds Production as Crude Nears $82.50

In line with market expectations, oil cartel OPEC held its current daily production output quota at 24.845 million barrels following the conclusion of its meeting in Vienna.

In a statement the cartel noted that production increases among oil exporting countries that were not part of OPEC would offset rising global demand for oil. Clarifying its stand, OPEC said that although world oil demand is projected to increase marginally during the year, this rise will be more than offset by the expected increase in non-OPEC supply, meaning that 2010 is likely to witness a decline in the demand for OPEC crude oil for the third consecutive year.

The cartel added that the persistently high OECD stock levels (estimated to currently stand at 59-61 days of forward cover i.e. well above their five-year average) indicate that there has been a contra-seasonal stock build in the first quarter 2010 and the overhang in terms of forward cover is expected to continue throughout the year.

Furthermore, market commentators also believe that OPEC member nations already flout their set quota cap. Overall compliance of quotas is thought to be in the circa of 52% to 58% depending on whom you speak to in the City.

OPEC president, Germanico Pinto, said that while an improvement was seen in the oil market outlook in recent months, there was some way to go before the cartel could feel at ease with the situation. In case the markets get unstable, the cartel stands ready, “to swiftly respond to any developments which might place oil market stability in jeopardy.”

Despite the predictability of the announcement, markets responded with a customary spike largely fuelled by a weaker U.S. Dollar. NYMEX light sweet crude was up 77 cents at $82.47 a barrel, nearing the $82.50 barrier. Concurrently, in London Brent crude was up by 72 cents to $81.25 a barrel on ICE Europe. Next meeting of the cartel is set for Oct 14, 2010 in Vienna.

© Gaurav Sharma 2010. Photo Courtesy © Royal Dutch Shell

BP Swoops for (More) Global Assets

Oil major BP has swooped for assets in Brazil, Azerbaijan and U.S. deepwater Gulf of Mexico from Devon Energy for a price tag of $7 billion as well as giving the latter a 50% stake in its Kirby oil sands holdings in Alberta, Canada, for $500 million.

The 50/50 Canadian joint venture, slated to be operated by Devon, will pursue development of the interest. Devon Energy has also committed to fund an additional $150 million in capital costs on BP’s behalf.

Going into further details, BP said the acquired assets include ten exploration blocks in Brazil, seven of which are in the Campos basin, prospects in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and an interest in the BP-operated Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli (ACG) development in the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan.

Apart from diversifying in general, the move was as much about strengthening the British oil major’s foothold in the Gulf of Mexico where it has been a key player for decades. BP will now gain a high quality portfolio in the Gulf with interests in some 240 leases, with a particular focus on the emerging Paleogene play in the ultra-deepwater.

The addition of Devon Energy’s 30% interest in the major Paleogene discovery Kaskida will give BP a 100% interest in the project. The assets also include interests in four producing oil fields: Zia, Magnolia, Merganser, and Nansen. Market commentators have already given the deal a thumbs-up.

Furthermore, Andy Inglis, BP's chief executive of Exploration and Production, told the media that BP’s entry into Brazil will add a major position in another attractive deepwater basin. "Together with the additional new access in the Gulf of Mexico, it further underlines our global position as the leading deepwater international oil company," he added.

BP also hopes to count on Devon Energy's first-hand experience in Canada. "Devon is an experienced operator in the Canadian oil sands with a proven track record of in situ development and production. We expect this transaction will accelerate the development of the Kirby assets and, through the associated crude off-take agreement, provide a secure source of Canadian heavy oil for our advantaged Whiting refinery," Inglis noted.

© Gaurav Sharma 2010. Logo Courtesy © BP Plc


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