Now that Occidental Petroleum has beaten Chevron to the acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum – and the strategic assets it holds in the prolific Permian Basin – one would think that the deal is cut-and-dry. Not so. The fallout of the massive US$57 billion deal has begun, and it pits one legendary billionaire against another legendary billionaire.
The Occidental purchase of Anadarko had all the signs of a classic takeover battle, swooping in after Chevron and Anadarko’s boards had approved their own US$48 billion deal. It was made only possible by Oxy CEO Vicki Hollub making a quick private plane trip that resulted in a last-minute US$10 billion capital injection from Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway that was contingent on the Anadarko purchase working. It did. And with the US Federal Trade Commission approving the deal, Anadarko will become part of Occidental by the end of 2019.
But not everyone is happy about the situation. Some investors and shareholders of Occidental believe that it badly overpaid for Anadarko, and were rankled by the deal bypassing a shareholder vote on the matter. The chief critic of this is activist Carl Icahn, who owns a US$1.6 billion stake in Occidental, who slammed it as ‘misguided’ with the CEO and Board ‘betting the company to serve their own agendas’. Icahn has already filed a lawsuit demanding access to Occidental’s books and records, and has just take the fight to a new level.
Last week, Icahn filed regulatory paperwork to call for a special shareholder meeting where he hopes to oust four of Occidental directors and modify the company’s charter through stockholder consent from ever engineering a similar takeover. Icahn wants Spencer Abraham, Eugene Batchelder, Margaret Foran and Avedick Poladian out from the Board, holding them responsible for the ‘fiasco’. He has, of course, nominated his own preferred replacements, including one of his portfolio manager’s Nicholas Graziano, his general counsel Andrew Langham, former Jarden finance chief Alan LeFevre and former president of Shell John Hofmeister. While Icahn has publicly acknowledge that the Anadarko takeover will probably go ahead, his aim is for the new Board to oversee ‘future extraordinary transactions to ensure that they are not consummated without shareholder approval where approval.’
Will it work? Before the proxy fight can go ahead, Icahn must get at least 20% of shareholders to agree to a meeting. That’s a tall order, given that the current crop of directors and Boards were re-elected at the May annual meeting, although with lower support. But there is certainly some appetite, given that Occidental’s stock has dropped nearly 17% since the initial April hostile takeover, reflecting market mood that it had bitten off more than it could chew.
All of this is playing out against a backdrop of pessimism in the Permian. Although the shale revolution had brought American crude production to record highs and sent its crude exports to a new record of 3.3 mmb/d in June, there are now cracks showing. With limited infrastructure, low prices and over-exploitation, the Permian boom is slowing down. Once an investor’s darling, financing has now become far tougher for Permian players, as the high production fall off rate means that companies have to spend more and more money to just maintain production. It’s a situation that is particularly negative for the small, nimble players that powered the initial shale revolution who lack the deep pockets to optimise shale assets over a longer production period. All across the Permian, independent players have lost between 50-100% of their market value, making them ripe for acquisition by majors and supermajors. Deals like the Anadarko one make sense in this context, but with the financial risk increasing, these blockbuster deals may never lead to blockbuster returns. Carl Icahn may not be able win his battle for the Occidental board, but he is certainly making a serious – and very valid - point.
The Occidental-Anadarko deal:
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The year’s final upstream auctions were touted as a potential bonanza for Brazil, with pre-auction estimates suggesting that up to US$50 billion could be raised for some deliciously-promising blocks. The Financial Times expected it to be the ‘largest oil bidding round in history’. The previous auction – held in October – was a success, attracting attention from supermajors and new entrants, including Malaysia’s Petronas. Instead, the final two auctions in November were a complete flop, with only three of the nine major blocks awarded.
What happened? What happened to the appetite displayed by international players such as ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, Total and BP in October? The fields on offer are certainly tempting, located in the prolific pre-salt basin and including prized assets such as the Buzios, Itapu, Sepia and Atapu fields. Collectively, the fields could contain as much as 15 billion barrels of crude oil. Time-to-market is also shorter; much of the heavy work has already been done by Petrobras during the period where it was the only firm allowed to develop Brazil’s domestic pre-salt fields. But a series of corruption scandals and a new government has necessitated a widening of that ambition, by bringing in foreign expertise and, more crucially, foreign money. But the fields won’t come cheap. In addition to signing bonuses to be paid to the Brazilian state ranging from US$331 million to US$17 billion by field, compensation will need to be paid to Petrobras. The auction isn’t a traditional one, but a Transfer of Rights sale covering existing in-development and producing fields.
And therein lies the problem. The massive upfront cost of entry comes at a time when crude oil prices are moderating and the future outlook of the market is uncertain, with risks of trade wars, economic downturns and a move towards clean energy. The fact that the compensation to be paid to Petrobras would be negotiated post-auction was another blow, as was the fact that the auction revolved around competing on the level of profit oil offered to the Brazilian government. Prior to the auction itself, this arrangement was criticised as overtly complicated and ‘awful’, with Petrobras still retaining the right of first refusal to operate any pre-salt fields A simple concession model was suggested as a better alternative, and the stunning rebuke by international oil firms at the auction is testament to that. The message is clear. If Brazil wants to open up for business, it needs to leave behind its legacy of nationalisation and protectionism centring around Petrobras. In an ironic twist, the only fields that were awarded went to Petrobras-led consortiums – essentially keeping it in the family.
There were signs that it was going to end up this way. ExxonMobil – so enthusiastic in the October auction – pulled out of partnering with Petrobras for Buzios, balking at the high price tag despite the field currently producing at 400,000 b/d. But the full-scale of the reticence revealed flaws in Brazil’s plans, with state officials admitting to being ‘stunned’ by the lack of participation. Comments seem to suggest that Brazil will now re-assess how it will offer the fields when they go up for sale again next year, promising to take into account the reasons that scared international majors off in the first place. Some US$17 billion was raised through the two days of auction – not an insignificant amount but a far cry from the US$50 billion expected. The oil is there. Enough oil to vault Brazil’s production from 3 mmb/d to 7 mmb/d by 2030. All Brazil needs to do now is create a better offer to tempt the interested parties.
Results of Brazil’s November upstream auctions:
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Electricity, coal, renewables, and emissions
The amount of natural gas held in storage in 2019 went from a relatively low value of 1,155 billion cubic feet (Bcf) at the beginning of April to 3,724 Bcf at the end of October because of near-record injection activity during the natural gas injection, or refill, season (April 1–October 31). Inventories as of October 31 were 37 Bcf higher than the previous five-year end-of-October average, according to interpolated values in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report.
Although the end of the natural gas storage injection season is traditionally defined as October 31, injections often occur in November. Working natural gas stocks ended the previous heating season at 1,155 Bcf on March 31, 2019—the second-lowest level for that time of year since 2004. The 2019 injection season included several weeks with relatively high injections: weekly changes exceeded 100 Bcf nine times in 2019. Certain weeks in April, June, and September were the highest weekly net injections in those months since at least 2010.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report
From April 1 through October 31, 2019, more than 2,569 Bcf of natural gas was placed into storage in the Lower 48 states. This volume was the second-highest net injected volume for the injection season, falling short of the record 2,727 Bcf injected during the 2014 injection season. In 2014, a particularly cold winter left natural gas inventories in the Lower 48 states at 837 Bcf—the lowest level for that time of year since 2003.