Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Global oil companies to invest $375 bn despite downturn

The private and state-run oil companies worldwide would invest $375 billion in the hydrocarbon sector this year despite the economic downturn and concerns about low oil demand, market research firm Ernst & Young said in a report.

It said the state-run oil companies are on course to invest over $275 billion in 2009, while major private sector companies have committed $100 billion.

About 70 percent of the investment would come from the oil companies in Asia and South America, and based on the current estimates, the oil companies would be investing $600 billion in the hydrocarbon sector by 2015, it added.

The document was produced for the National Oil Companies (NOC) Congress here June 1-4, WAM reported Wednesday.

Ernst & Young's Andy Brogan, author of the report, said: "The national and private oil companies continue to show a real determination to push ahead with their major capital expenditure plans this year, at least for now."

"Last year saw a record capital investment in the sector and 2009 is shaping up to be another record year. Companies are wary of finding themselves in a position where they have to play 'catch-up on investment' when the upturn materialises,' he added.

"Most oil and gas companies have indicated that they will spend more than half of their capital investment on upstream operations," he said, adding that China and Brazil are emerging as powerhouses.

The economic slowdown, a dramatic fall in the oil prices and investors' lack of confidence have left many reserve rich state-owned oil and gas companies in the lurk.

The state-run companies are looking at cost-cutting measures, while countries such as Indonesia are introducing stimulus packages to aid the sector. Ambitions to expand overseas are also being scaled back in order to prioritise domestic projects, the report noted.

However, substantial financial commitments are still being made for oil and gas projects in China and Brazil.

Brazil is set to become a major producer after pre-salt discoveries by state-run Petrobras, which plans to invest $28 billon in the sector in 2009 as part of its $174 billion investment plan till 2013. About 90 percent investment would be made in projects in Brazil.

The Petrobras' investment represents 38 percent of the $91 billion expenditure planned by South American state-run oil companies this year, the Ernst & Young said.

Asian oil companies are to invest more than $98 billion, of which about $42 billion has been allocated by China's state-run CNPC.

By comparison, the combined capital expenditure of the oil companies in Africa, CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) and the Middle East, is a fraction of their Asian and South American counterparts put together.

The NOCs in Africa announced a $21-billion-investment this year, compared to $36 billion committed by CIS countries and $29 billion by companies in the Middle East.

Don Painter, chief of Ernst & Young's Middle East operations, said: "The investments committed by Middle East NOCs is below the levels of NOCs in Asia and South America this year, (but) there is still plenty of cash available in the Middle East for the right type of investment."

"Cash rich GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) producers are still seeking appropriate investment opportunities in the region and elsewhere. The slowdown in their capital expenditure does not reflect their appetite for major investments," he said.

"When the NOCs had easy access to capital they were in a position to dictate terms with their IOC (international oil partners), but the volatility in financial markets mean that IOCs with sufficient liquidity will be able to offer potential partners not only technological and operational expertise but also access to much needed capital," said Brogan.

He added that "any renewed appetite from the NOCs for IOC participation would be short-lived after the global economy recovers, and therefore opportunities available now should not be wasted."

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