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from Breakingviews:

Exxon Mobil running hard just to stand still

By Christopher Swann

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Exxon Mobil is having to run hard just to stand still. The world’s biggest company is pumping only a trickle more oil than 12 years ago - and maintaining even that is getting more expensive. Only buybacks are making growth in earnings per share look decent.

Keeping up with its own size is a challenge for a company as large as Exxon. It extracts more energy than the crude output of Canada, Brazil or Iran, according to BP figures. So a 3.5 percent production decline in the first quarter from a year earlier isn’t surprising in isolation. The trouble is, the problem is a long-term one. Exxon is pumping just 3 percent more oil and gas than in 2001. That’s despite the $31 billion purchase of explorer XTO Energy in 2010, which boosted output by more than a tenth at a stroke.

Even holding production roughly steady is increasingly costly. Exxon’s capital expenditure for the first quarter was a third higher than in the first three months of last year after rising 8 percent for 2012 overall.

from Breakingviews:

New oil dynamics may challenge crude growth logic

By Christopher Swann and Kevin Allison 

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Fears for the wobbly world economy have pushed Brent crude below $100 a barrel for the first time since July. Long-term trends at work in the oil market mean it could stay depressed. That’s good, since cheaper energy helps industry. Better still, booming shale output, greater efficiency and the rise of natural gas as a rival transport fuel may keep the oil price subdued even as growth is stimulated.

from Photographers' Blog:

Adventures on the western frontier

North Dakota

By Shannon Stapleton

It had been a couple months since I traveled somewhere to cover an assignment and I have to admit I was really looking to get out of town.

So when I heard that the Reuters text operation was covering a story in Williston, North Dakota on the Bakken Oil boom I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to visit a place that I had never been before. That same day I picked up the month's edition of National Geographic and saw on the cover that one of my favorite photographers Eugene Richards had spent some time there this past summer. I was excited to embark on an adventure to the western frontier and see for myself this modern day gold rush.

from Breakingviews:

How to go public and private all in one go

By Robert Cyran
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

A Brazilian company seems to have found a way to go public and private all in one go. Biosev, an ethanol producer, is preparing to sell new shares next month. As part of the deal, parent company Louis Dreyfus is offering to buy them back in 15 months. It’s essentially an initial public offering, convertible bond and potential buyout packaged together. And it’s an overly clever solution to a unique problem.

from Breakingviews:

U.S. oil billionaire’s divorce is no private affair

By Christopher Swann
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

American oil billionaire Harold Hamm’s impending divorce is not simply a private affair. Investors swiftly stripped half a billion dollars from the market value of Continental Resources on Thursday following news that founder and 68 percent owner Hamm and his wife are splitting. That may not do the threat justice. Any division of the tycoon’s $11 billion fortune leaves Continental exposed to hefty stock sales or a feud at the top.

from Breakingviews:

Cyprus will struggle to make gas math work

By Kevin Allison
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Cyprus’ latest ideas for wiggling out of its financial fix include bundling future gas revenues into a national “solidarity fund”. But Breakingviews calculations suggest the gas discovered to date isn’t worth enough to plug the country’s 5.8 billon euro ($7.5 billion) funding gap.

from Breakingviews:

Elusive future gas riches can’t help Cyprus now

By Kevin Allison

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

If there are any optimistic Cypriots left, it’s probably because of recent huge gas finds off the struggling Mediterranean island’s coast. But it’s too soon for Cyprus to put hard and credible numbers on its hoped-for resources boom. U.S. driller Noble Energy thinks it has found about 7 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of the fuel under deep water in Cyprus’ Aphrodite gas field.

from Breakingviews:

China’s solar bonds leave dim hope of payback

By John Foley

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Dim prospects for payback await bondholders in China’s Suntech Power Holdings. The stricken solar panel maker, unlikely to meet a $541 million bond payment due on March 15, has persuaded over half its foreign creditors to hold off for two months. On purely financial grounds, it’s hard to see how the bondholders could come away with anything in the event of a default. What value remains is a bet that China values foreign investors too much to snub them outright.

from The Great Debate:

California v. Texas in fight for the future

It is not a national election year, but the “red state versus blue state” wars continue. Texas Governor Rick Perry's recent foray into California, to lure away businesses and jobs, signals more than a rivalry between these two mega-states. The Texas-California competition represents the political, economic and cultural differences driving American politics today – and for the foreseeable future.

Texas and California are robust political and economic competitors. We don’t know which will be the template for the future. As California emerges from its economic and fiscal doldrums and some of Texas' vulnerabilities become evident, it is now far from certain that Texas will emerge the victor.

from Breakingviews:

U.S. buyout barons have new tax-dodge rivals: MLPs

By Christopher Swann
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

U.S. buyout barons have new tax-dodge rivals: master limited partnerships. The low tax rates on private equity bosses’ so-called carried interests save them $1.3 billion a year, according to the U.S Treasury, an advantage critics want wiped out. But new data show investors in energy partnerships are now costing Uncle Sam a similar amount thanks to an outdated Internal Revenue Service perk from the 1980s. Both loopholes should be closed.

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