Shale oil slump burns private equity interest

  • Spanish Market: Crude oil
  • 07/12/20

Private equity (PE) investors are accelerating a shift away from the US shale oil sector amid diminishing returns caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the past decade, private equity firms have poured tens of billions of dollars into the US oil and gas industry, especially as the shale revolution gained full steam. Their funding helped spur the shale oil boom that followed the last market slump in 2015-16. But the lustre was already wearing off shale oil before this year's slump as returns diminished, with PE capital invested in oil and gas firms falling by 45pc between 2017 and 2019, from $118bn to just over $64bn, Pitchbook data show.

And PE is unlikely to underpin an investment revival this time. To get PE dollars, "the industry is going to have be consistently profitable for the first time", US bank Stephens' managing partner Jim Wicklund, says.

PE firm Warburg Pincus recently told investors it is pulling back from investments in the oil and gas sector. Earlier this year, PE giant Carlyle Group sold its nearly 8pc stake in Chesapeake Energy, just before the producer filed for bankruptcy protection with nearly $12bn of debt. In total, 90pc of the combined debt — or $46bn — from producers filing for bankruptcy this year belonged to PE-backed firms, US law firm Haynes and Boone says. The average debt held by bankrupt PE-backed producers was more than four times that of their non-PE-backed peers.

Some observers argue that PE's exit from oil and gas is only temporary, and that investors will return once the industry recovers. But others say the situation has permanently shifted. Institutional investors have been exiting the oil sector in favour of technology firms with higher growth potential, fewer regulatory burdens and lower costs. Covid-19-related oil price volatility and the growing environmental, social and governance (ESG) stigma of fossil fuel firms have scared off investors already tiring of shale's dismal record on shareholder returns.

Effectively, "the equity market is closed to E&P companies", law firm Sidley's energy partner Jim Ricesays. As a result, energy initial public offerings have largely disappeared, depriving PE firms of the exits they need to recoup investment and earn returns. This is one reason US independents will need to consolidate to survive, Pioneer Natural Resources chief executive Scott Sheffield told the Reuters Future of Oil and Gas conference on 1 December. Pioneer recently agreed to acquire fellow Permian producer Parsley Energy for $4.5bn. "There was a lot of capital that went in, but most of them had very poor returns," Sheffield says. "They have to have an exit mechanism. They were built to flip. Those days are gone."

Hard bargain

There are still some quality assets for PE firms to pick off for the right price. For example, Kimmeridge Energy recently paid $140mn for a 2pc share of revenue interests for Callon Petroleum's operated oil and natural gas leases, a transaction known as an overriding royalty interest. But producers that need to raise cash will find that PE investment terms have become a lot tighter. Patrick Gimlett, managing director of AllianceBernstein Private Credit Investors, says he will only lend to companies at loan-to-value ratios of 55-60pc, which means a borrower would have to offer a down payment of 40-45pc of the loan to secure it.

Given the pressing issue of climate change, companies will also find themselves under growing environmental scrutiny. "We require best of class in ESG," Kimmeridge Energy managing partner Henry Makansi says. "Otherwise, they can't get our capital." And PE has moved away from the traditional "equity line of credit" investment model in which it backs an outside team to find drilling opportunities. Instead, firms only want proven wells that already produce energy. Overall, "there is a permanent increase in the cost of capital", Rice says. "It feels pretty dire."


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17/06/24

Iran rebukes G7 over nuclear warning: Update

Iran rebukes G7 over nuclear warning: Update

Adds quotes from IAEA director general Dubai, 17 June (Argus) — Iran's foreign ministry has called on the G7 to distance itself from "destructive policies of the past" after the group issued a statement condemning Tehran's recent nuclear programme escalation. "Unfortunately, some countries, driven by political motives and by resorting to baseless and unproven claims, attempt to continue their failed and ineffective policy of imposing and maintaining sanctions against the Iranian nation," the foreign ministry's spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on 16 June. Kanaani advised the G7 "to learn from past experiences and distance itself from destructive past policies". His comments were in response to a joint statement from G7 leaders on 14 June warning Iran against advancing its nuclear enrichment programme. The leaders said they would be ready to enforce new measures if Tehran were to transfer ballistic missiles to Russia. The G7's reference to Iran comes on the heels of a new resolution passed by the board of governors of the UN's nuclear watchdog the IAEA . The resolution calls on Iran to step up co-operation and reverse its decision to restrict the agency access to nuclear facilities by de-designating inspectors. Kanaani said "any attempt to link the war in Ukraine to the bilateral co-operation between Iran and Russia is an act with only biased political goals", adding that some countries are "resorting to false claims to continue sanctions" against Iran. Tehran will continue its "constructive interaction and technical co-operation" with the IAEA, Kanaani said. But the agency's resolution is "politically biased", he said. Not an "anti-Iran" policy In an interview with the Russian daily newspaper Izvestia published today, IAEA director general Rafael Grossi refused claims of political bias. "We do co-operate with Iran. I don't deny this. This is important for inspection. My Iranian colleagues often say that Iran is the most inspected country in the world. Well, it is, and for good reason. But this is not enough," Grossi said, adding that the IAEA does not adhere to an "anti-Iran policy". Grossi also stressed the need for countries to return to diplomacy with Iran, while expressing concerns over the expansion of its nuclear programme. "Russia plays a very important role in this diplomacy, trying to keep the Iranian programme within a predictable and peaceful framework. But again, everything needs to be controlled," he said. The IAEA's new resolution and the reference to Iran in the G7 statement could be the start of a more concerted effort to raise pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programme. "What is happening right now is the process of accumulation of resolutions, so that when the day comes and the IAEA makes a referral to the UN Security Council, there will be enough resolutions to make a case for action at the security council level," a diplomatic source told Argus . Iran is enriching uranium to as high as 60pc purity. Near 90pc is considered to be weapons grade, according to the IAEA. By Bachar Halabi Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Japex takes control of Norway-focused upstream venture


17/06/24
17/06/24

Japex takes control of Norway-focused upstream venture

Tokyo, 17 June (Argus) — Japanese upstream firm Japex has acquired a majority stake in Longboat Japex from London-listed independent Longboat Energy to take full control of the Norwegian oil and gas joint venture. Japex spent $2.5mn to buy the 50.1pc stake, which will completed during July-September this year, Japex said. It bought a 49.9pc stake in Longboat Japex from Longboat Energy in May last year, with the UK firm last year looking to raise extra funds through asset sales, farm-down deals or issuing new equity. By Reina Maeda Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Iran rebukes G7 after warning over nuclear escalation


17/06/24
17/06/24

Iran rebukes G7 after warning over nuclear escalation

Dubai, 17 June (Argus) — Iran's foreign ministry has called on the G7 to distance itself from "destructive policies of the past" after the group issued a statement condemning Tehran's recent nuclear programme escalation. "Unfortunately, some countries, driven by political motives and by resorting to baseless and unproven claims, attempt to continue their failed and ineffective policy of imposing and maintaining sanctions against the Iranian nation," the foreign ministry's spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on 16 June. Kanaani advised the G7 "to learn from past experiences and distance itself from destructive past policies". His comments were in response to a joint statement from G7 leaders on 14 June warning Iran against advancing its nuclear enrichment programme. The leaders said they would be ready to enforce new measures if Tehran were to transfer ballistic missiles to Russia. The G7's reference to Iran comes on the heels of a new resolution passed by the board of governors of the UN's nuclear watchdog the IAEA . The resolution calls on Iran to step up co-operation and reverse its decision to restrict the agency access to nuclear facilities by de-designating inspectors. Kanaani said "any attempt to link the war in Ukraine to the bilateral co-operation between Iran and Russia is an act with only biased political goals", adding that some countries are "resorting to false claims to continue sanctions" against Iran. Tehran will continue its "constructive interaction and technical co-operation" with the IAEA, Kanaani said. But the agency's resolution is "politically biased", he said. The IAEA's new resolution and the reference to Iran in the G7 statement could be the start of a more concerted effort to raise pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programme. "What is happening right now is the process of accumulation of resolutions, so that when the day comes and the IAEA makes a referral to the UN Security Council, there will be enough resolutions to make a case for action at the security council level," a diplomatic source told Argus . Iran is enriching uranium to as high as 60pc purity. Near 90pc is considered to be weapons grade, according to the IAEA. By Bachar Halabi Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

S Africa's ANC, DA agree to form government


14/06/24
14/06/24

S Africa's ANC, DA agree to form government

Cape Town, 14 June (Argus) — South Africa's African National Congress (ANC) and Democratic Alliance (DA) political parties today agreed to form a government while the first sitting of the new parliament was underway. The agreement, which includes the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), paves the way for ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa to be re-elected president. The parties will assume various positions in government broadly in proportion to their share of seats. The government of national unity (GNU) agreement is the result of two weeks of intense negotiations after the ANC lost its long-held majority in the national election on 29 May. It secured 40.2pc of the vote, and the centre-right, pro-market DA retained its position as the official opposition with 21.8pc. The deal scuppers the possibility of an alliance between the ANC and the two largest left-wing parties, MK (uMkhonto weSizwe) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which credit ratings agency Fitch warned could pose risks to macroeconomic stability . MK party unseated the EFF in the election to come third, winning 14.6pc of the vote. The EFF secured 9.5pc, and the IFP came a distant fifth with 3.85pc. The MK and EFF are populist parties that campaigned on agendas including wide-scale land expropriation without compensation, nationalisation of economic assets — including mines, the central bank and large banks and insurers — halting fiscal consolidation and aggressively increasing social grants. The GNU parties agreed the new administration should focus on rapid economic growth, job creation, infrastructure development and fiscal sustainability. Other priorities include building a professional, merit-based and non-partisan public service, as well as strengthening law enforcement agencies to address crime and corruption. Through a national dialogue that will include civil society, labour and business, parties will seek to develop a national social compact to enable South Africa to meet its developmental goals, they said. The GNU will take decisions in accordance with the established practice of consensus, but where no consensus is possible a principle of sufficient consensus will apply. By Elaine Mills Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

UK political parties repeat existing stances on energy


13/06/24
13/06/24

UK political parties repeat existing stances on energy

London, 13 June (Argus) — The two main UK political parties have set out their plans, including on energy and climate change, with just three weeks until the general election. Energy security and the cost to consumers is a recurring theme for both, but the manifestos present some marked differences in approach to the energy transition. Both the incumbent Conservative and opposition Labour parties doubled down on existing positions in their respective manifestos. The Conservative party said that it remains committed to the UK's 2050 net zero emissions target, but promises a "pragmatic and proportionate" route. The party's manifesto guarantees "no new green levies or charges while accelerating the rollout of renewables". The UK's net zero goal is legally-binding, and was passed with significant cross-party support under a Conservative government in 2019. The Conservatives have been in power since 2010, and fielded five prime ministers in that time. Recent polling data show a substantial lead for Labour, which performed well at local elections in May. Labour placed strong focus on the opportunity the transition offers, saying that it would place the UK at the "forefront of climate action by creating the green jobs of the future at home and driving forward the energy transition on the global stage". The party has committed to zero-carbon power by 2030, although it would "maintain a strategic reserve of gas power stations to guarantee security of supply", it said. The Conservative manifesto reiterates the party's plans to build new gas-fired power plants. The party had previously committed to a decarbonised power grid by 2035, in line with a G7 pledge, although that is not mentioned in its manifesto. The two main parties clearly diverge on their approaches to North Sea oil and gas production. The Conservatives aim to keep the windfall tax — which effectively results in a 75pc rate — on oil and gas producers in place "until 2028-29, unless prices fall back to normal sooner". Labour confirmed plans to lift the rate to 78pc and run the tax until the end of the next parliament, which is likely to be mid-2029. Labour is also clear that it "will not revoke existing licences" in the North Sea, but it will not issue any new licences — for oil, gas or coal. The Conservatives restated the party's aim to legislate for annual North Sea licensing rounds . Both parties back nuclear energy, including small modular reactors — though those are unlikely to be operational until after 2030. And both pledge to cut planning bureaucracy and tackle grid connections. Labour's plans to "double onshore wind, triple solar power, and quadruple offshore wind by 2030" would result in installed capacity of 31GW, 48GW and 59GW, respectively, from a baseline of end-2023. The Conservatives' target to triple offshore wind by the end of the next parliament would put installed capacity at 44GW in 2029 — below the 50GW target for 2030 set in 2022 — while it said it supports solar and onshore wind in some circumstances. Finance in focus Both parties are keen to pull in private-sector investment, while Labour took up an original Conservative pledge to "make the UK the green finance capital of the world". And both pledge to address the cost of energy for consumers — Labour through local power generation projects and home insulation upgrades, and the Conservatives by ruling out any further "green levies". The latter plans to reverse London's expansion of the ultra-low emissions zone — originally planned by Conservative then-mayor and later prime minister Boris Johnson. Labour said that it would restore a phase-out date of 2030 for new internal combustion engine cars — which prime minister Rishi Sunak in September pushed back to 2035 . On an international level, both parties mention climate leadership at summits such as UN Cops. The Conservatives pledged to "ring-fence" the UK's climate finance commitments, while Labour committed to restore development spending to 0.7pc of gross national income "as soon as fiscal circumstances allow". By Georgia Gratton Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

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