Breakingviews

Shell could win from bold $70 bln swoop on BG

April 8, 2015

The oil major is offering a fat 50 pct premium for its UK rival. But the share price was depressed and the synergies are attractive. The deal could prove a smart and opportunistic way to boost growth via deepwater assets and liquid natural gas – provided Shell keeps costs down.

Shareholders give Exxon the benefit of the doubt

February 2, 2015

The oil major is keeping mum on spending plans even as rivals cut back. And it only beat Q4 estimates thanks to tax and legal breaks. Unlike Chevron, though, Exxon is still buying back stock, if less than before. Such relative resilience appeals to investors, but might not last.

Crude slump will stoke European oil and gas M&A

January 2, 2015

The sharp drop in the price of Brent might make it harder to get deals done in the short term. But if the downturn persists, financial distress will put some small players in play. Larger, more defensive mergers, designed to create value by sharing costs, are also possible.

Review: Congo’s problems run deeper than oil

November 21, 2014

Virunga Park sits on top of reserves and between hostile states inhabited by warring militias. A new documentary casts UK oil firm Soco as the park’s top threat. Unethical exploiters are just one symptom of a nation whose institutions are too weak to assure economic stability.

Activist row bigger than Keystone for TransCanada

November 19, 2014

A sparring match with a dissident investor may be more important than the fate of the $35 bln Canadian group’s tar sands pipeline. Bay Street has welcomed activists, and the regulatory environment is favorable. But for now, TransCanada appears to have shareholders on its side.

Baker Hughes wins tactical $35 bln battle

November 17, 2014

Playing hard-to-get squeezed a premium north of 50 pct out of Halliburton. The larger U.S. oil services group’s target of $2 bln in annual cost savings just about justifies the price it is paying. But integration challenges and competitive concerns make that look aggressive.

New Shell chairman has a tough job on his hands

October 30, 2014

Charles Holliday arrives at the Anglo-Dutch major as oil prices slump towards $85 a barrel. After a dismal 2013, Shell is making good progress. But while Holliday has sound experience at DuPont and Bank of America, he will need to learn the tricks of his new trade quickly.

Commodity producer/trader boundary starts to blur

October 14, 2014

Glencore’s interest in a deal with Rio Tinto was about more than corporate ambition. Commodity traders are keen to buy hard assets to secure supply, while producers view logistics and marketing as a way of boosting returns. Expect more convergence, and shrinking trading margins.

Scottish secessionists in bind over North Sea oil

September 4, 2014

Both sides of the independence debate are arguing over how many barrels are left. Oil revenue is key for an independent Scotland to manage its finances. But the need to raise funds could undermine an equally vital imperative: tax breaks to incentivise flagging exploration.

Venezuela digs way to distressed seller status

August 14, 2014

The country wants to offload Citgo, its U.S. refinery and pipelines unit. It may be worth up to $15 bln, money that’s sorely needed thanks to President Nicolas Maduro’s barmy economic policies. And the drop in value of heavy-oil assets like Citgo owns makes it a bad time to sell.