Christopher's Feed
Sep 26, 2012
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Nixing China’s oil bid may create Canada discount

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By Christopher Swann

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

Canada is at risk of slapping a national discount on its resources sector. Investors reckon there’s a roughly one-in-four chance that the country’s politicians will block a $15.1 billion offer by China’s CNOOC for local energy company Nexen. Takeovers by state-owned companies raise tricky questions. But hoisting the national flag over a company of little strategic importance risks further alienating outside investors.

Jul 6, 2012
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Duke CEO sucker punch a value lesson for investors

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By Christopher Swann

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

Leadership is supposed to have its privileges. So naming the chief executive was a prize electric firm Progress Energy demanded when selling itself to larger rival Duke Energy. In return they accepted a tiny premium. That Progress’ man Bill Johnson lasted only hours in his job is a reminder to investors never to sacrifice value for the prestige of getting the top job.

Jul 2, 2012
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Indispensability of Chesapeake CEO is exaggerated

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By Christopher Swann

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

Chesapeake Energy’s Aubrey McClendon has managed to ride out scandals that would have dislodged any ordinary chief executive. The gas firm’s boss owes this remarkable staying power in large part to a myth of unsackability. McClendon’s groupies claim his talent and natural wildcatting instincts make him indispensable. Even some investors disgusted by his numerous abuses fear he has created a firm so complicated that only he can manage it. Both place too high a value on the CEO and too little on Chesapeake’s vast asset portfolio.

Jun 14, 2012
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OPEC starting to look like a cartel of one

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By Christopher Swann and Kevin Allison
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Twelve nations belong to OPEC but only Saudi Arabia has mattered of late. At the latest meeting in Vienna, the kingdom again batted away Venezuela, Iran and others who wanted to cut output. The deepening divide in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries could face a more serious test if prices keep sliding.

Jun 14, 2012
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OPEC can’t afford to give residents cheap oil

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By Christopher Swann

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

Bargain price oil is a standard perk for residents of crude-exporting nations. To the governments which set the low domestic price, such subsidies look like a way to buy popularity without any cash outflow. But the practice is expensive for members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which meets in Vienna this week. It’s well past time for a change.

Jun 6, 2012

Booming U.S. oil is rare advert for big capitalism

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

By Christopher Swann

NEW YORK, June 6 (Reuters Breakingviews) – The United States
now boasts the world’s fastest-rising oil production outside the
Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. That leaves
Brazil’s growth trailing, while output in Mexico is falling.
With big banks in particular in the political doghouse,
America’s oil prowess is a reminder that private enterprises
seize opportunities better than governments.

May 30, 2012
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Exxon’s fracking gag makes Chesapeake look good

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

Exxon Mobil’s reticence to come clean about fracking makes Chesapeake Energy look good. That’s a rare feat – and hardly one to brag about. The troubled gas firm is infamously opaque. But its openness on the risks of fracking puts larger rivals like Exxon Mobil and Chevron to shame. After another large minority vote from investors for more information on this controversial practice, Big Oil should follow its troubled cousin’s lead.

May 24, 2012
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Goldman renewable energy dash more than greenwash

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

Goldman Sachs is making a dash to invest in renewable energy projects. It says it will invest $40 billion of its own and clients’ money over a decade. The Wall Street firm isn’t above self-serving spin, but it’s also never far from the money. With solar and wind power nearing cost levels that are competitive with fossil fuels, clean energy could burnish Goldman’s bottom line as well as its green credentials.

May 23, 2012
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Did Chesapeake miss Enron lessons?

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By Christopher Swann and Robert Cyran
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Chesapeake Energy, the embattled U.S. natural gas producer, seems to have missed some of the lessons of Enron’s demise. There have been no allegations of fraud. But the U.S. gas firm’s vast trading operation, fondness for complicated holdings and relationships, and corporate generosity are among the traits that, in hindsight, should have invited greater scrutiny of Enron’s edifice.

Chesapeake is a force in the U.S. gas market. It owns real assets, and it is the second-largest producer in the United States, accounting for about 9 percent of gross domestic gas supply according to a recent company presentation. It is the most active driller of new U.S. wells, and has substantial proven and unproven reserves. Meanwhile, joint-venture partners including Total of France and Norway’s Statoil attest to the substance of the projects they are involved in.

May 16, 2012

Exxon attacks straw man to defend CEO’s pay

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

By Christopher Swann

NEW YORK, May 16 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Exxon Mobil
(XOM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) is attacking a straw man in its attempts to defend Chief
Executive Rex Tillerson’s bumper $35 million 2011 pay package.
Hoping to calm shareholders angry at the bonanza, the oil giant
held an investor call on Wednesday afternoon to explain its
argument that the company’s long-term goals obviate the need for
annual targets when setting executive pay. But that just sounds
like an excuse for C-suite largesse.

    • About Christopher

      "I am a columnist at Thomson Reuters focusing on the energy industry and hedge funds. Prior to this I worked at Bloomberg and the Financial Times."
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