Exxon and Chevron Signal They Are Still Shopping for Deals
Exxon Mobil and Chevron collectively banked nearly $14 billion in second-quarter profits Friday, down from last year’s record-breaking levels but adding to their war chests as they eye acquisitions in the oil patch.
Exxon said it earned $7.9 billion in the second quarter, extending its run of strong quarters though its profit was down from the company's $17.9 billion haul in the same time last year, when Russia's invasion of Ukraine skyrocketed energy prices. Chevron said it collected $6 billion in profit, dropping from a quarterly record of $11.6 billion in the same period last year.
The profits follow multibillion-dollar deals by both companies in recent months, and the oil giants have said they aren't done shopping.
Exxon scooped up pipeline operator and oil producer Denbury for $4.9 billion in July and Chevron agreed in May to buy shale driller PDC Energy for $6.3 billion. Both transactions were all-stock, low-premium deals that showed the companies could still make big bets despite a push by Wall Street for austerity.
Exxon CEO Darren Woods said the company is actively on the hunt for acquisition targets that are a good match.
“We're continuing to look for that, but we're not going to compromise our expectation of generating returns and growing value for shareholders," he said in a conference call with investors.
Chevron CEO Mike Wirth said in a recent TV interview his company is open to more deals following the PDC acquisition.
In picking off two smaller companies, Exxon and Chevron revealed some of their strategy to investors who have asked how they plan to grow as they sit on historically large piles of cash in the wake of last year's energy price hikes.
Exxon and others have eyed potential deals in the Permian basin of West Texas and New Mexico, the most active U.S. oil field. In April, The Wall Street Journal reported that Exxon had held preliminary talks with Pioneer Natural Resources, a giant shale company in West Texas.
Conditions are ripe for a deal frenzy in the oil patch this year. The shale industry has shifted from the rapid growth it pursued for more than a decade to a mature business underpinned by fiscal restraint and hefty shareholder payouts. Drilling for new oil discoveries has fallen out of favor with investors, leaving many companies with few options other than to acquire rivals to extend their runway.
The continued run of profitable quarters has helped Exxon and Chevron improve their balance sheets while increasing dividends and buybacks, potentially giving them more leeway with shareholders to pursue deals. Analysts and investors expect Exxon and Chevron to eventually play a big role in scooping up the dozens of smaller shale companies that constitute the industry.
Both companies' profits fell modestly from the previous quarter, when Exxon reported $11.4 billion in profits and Chevron posted $6.6 billion. Exxon's profit came in below analysts' expectations of $8.3 billion, according to FactSet. It attributed most of the $3.6 billion decline from the first quarter to lower natural-gas prices and thinner refining margins.
Exxon's shares were down 1.2% on Friday. Chevron shares declined less than 1%.
Prices for crude, natural gas and fuels have fallen since last summer, when the national average for U.S. gasoline hit a historically high mark and fuel-making margins reached the widest levels on record.
Despite falling off their highs, commodity prices have remained elevated and are starting to climb again. U.S. oil prices settled above $80 a barrel on Thursday, the highest level since mid-April. Europe's energy crunch has made shipping commodities from U.S. ports more profitable, as well. All of that has bolstered the companies' bottom line.
Exxon said it had $29.6 billion in cash at the end of the three-month period, compared with its record high of $32.7 billion at the end of March. The company expects a recent series of cost cuts will add up to $9 billion in savings by the end of this year, compared with spending in 2019.
Both companies also showered investors in cash. Exxon spent $8 billion on shareholder distributions via dividends and share buybacks in the quarter; Chevron spent a company record of $7.2 billion.
Emboldened by their strong results, the companies have begun to pursue growth in certain parts of their business, a reversal from pandemic-induced retrenchment.
Dan Ammann, president of Exxon's low-carbon solutions business, said in an interview the company would consider accelerating its build-out of the relatively new unit via an acquisition if it found other compelling targets.
Exxon formed the low-carbon unit in 2021 to primarily invest in climate-friendly technologies, such as carbon capture, that it hopes will help curb emissions from the company's fossil-fuels business and other industrial operations. It is planning to spend $7 billion through 2027 growing the business alongside $10 billion on curbing its own emissions.
Chevron also created its own venture, known as Chevron New Energies, that aims to invest $10 billion through 2028 in carbon capture, hydrogen, renewable fuels and other technologies.
But investors say the companies' bigger desire is to buy more assets in the oil patch. Both are focused on the Permian, where both Exxon and Chevron have carved out vast strongholds and aspire to pump about as much oil as comes from the Bakken Shale of North Dakota.
Woods, Exxon's CEO, has told investors the company is working on technology that will boost the amount of oil it can wring from a well in the Permian, as it seeks to grow production there to 1 million barrels a day by 2027.
Exxon also recently purchased drilling rights in a lithium-rich part of South Arkansas, seeking to extract the mineral, and has plans to build one of the world's largest lithium processing facilities nearby, the Journal reported.
On Friday, Woods said Exxon could use skills the company has developed over decades of drilling and refining to produce lithium from brine water, at a lower cost and with a smaller environmental impact than lithium mining.
“This to us feels like a potential win-win-win opportunity, a win using our capabilities, a win from an environmental impact standpoint and a win supplying markets with a crucial component to electrification and EVs," he said.
Write to Collin Eaton at email@example.com
Source: Live Mint
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Troubled Chinese trust company brings in state help
HONG KONG: China’s Zhongrong International Trust, a shadow-banking giant whose financial troubles have rattled investors, broke its silence late Friday and said it is working with two state-owned institutions to address its problems.
The domestic asset manager last month failed to make payments on high-yielding investment products that it had sold to many companies and wealthy individuals. That sparked concerns that the country's worsening property downturn was developing into a wider financial-sector contagion.
Zhongrong Trust acknowledged late Friday that it had missed payments on some products, and said it would bring in two large state-owned trust companies to help with operations and management.
“Due to multiple internal and external factors, some of the company's trust products could not be paid on schedule," it said. Zhongrong Trust said it has engaged CITIC Trust, owned by state conglomerate CITIC Group, and CCB Trust, owned by China Construction Bank, to work with it for a year.
The asset manager indicated the arrangement isn't a government bailout. It said the two state-backed firms won't be responsible for paying for its trust products, and the arrangement could be terminated early or extended.
Since Zhongrong Trust's troubles bubbled up around the middle of this year, investors have grown concerned that China's $2.9 trillion trust industry could be the next casualty of the country's property crisis.
Trust companies have long been a source of funding for Chinese real-estate developers. A tougher financing environment in recent years meant many privately owned developers were unable to secure loans from big banks to build residential projects. Trust companies filled some of that gap, providing loans at a higher cost to developers.
In 2022, Zhongrong's trust funds had 11% of their assets in the property sector, according to the company's annual report.
Missed payments started to pile up recently. Since August, at least 11 publicly listed companies in mainland China have said in stock-exchange filings that they didn't receive interest or principal payments on products managed by Zhongrong Trust. Those missed payments add up to the equivalent of $82 million.
Some individual investors have also complained on social media that they had not received promised payments from Zhongrong Trust.
The full scope of its financial difficulties isn't known. The privately held company had the equivalent of $108 billion in assets under management at the end of 2022.
Many of its trust funds had promised returns of around 6% to 8% annually, according to public documents for these funds seen by The Wall Street Journal.
Some of these trust products invest in bank deposits, stocks, corporate bonds and other kinds of wealth-management products. One of them, which was purchased by a listed company that supplies maintenance and repair tools, raised money in 2021 for developer Shinsun Property Group to fund the construction of a high-end residential project in the eastern city of Hangzhou, a tech hub south of Shanghai. Shinsun defaulted on its U.S. dollar debt last year after failing to make an interest payment.
Zhongrong Trust was founded in 1987. Its biggest shareholder is a state-owned company called Jingwei Textile Machinery, which last month said it wanted to delist its shares from Shenzhen Stock Exchange. The company cited “significant uncertainties in its operations" due to “market changes," without providing specifics.
Trust funds in China had about $155 billion in exposure to the property sector at the end of the first quarter, according to data from the China Trustee Association. That portion is “under great threat," Nomura analysts said last month. Trust funds also have larger exposures to financial markets, which increases the risk of contagion, they said.
Write to Rebecca Feng at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Live Mint
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PM Modi launches Global Biofuels Alliance
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday announced the launch of the Global Biofuels Alliance.
A total of 19 countries and 12 international organizations have so far agreed to join the alliance, including both G20 members and non-member countries. India, Brazil and the US are the founding members of the alliance.
The prime minister launched the alliance in the presence of the US President Joe Biden, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva, Argentinian President Alberto Angel Fernández, Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni, Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina among others.
Apart from India, Brazil and the US, the other G20 member countries supporting the initiative are Argentina, Canada, Italy, and South Africa. Bangladesh, Singapore, Mauritius, and the UAE are the G20 invitee countries.
The non-G20 interested in joining the alliance are Iceland, Kenya, Guyana, Paraguay, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, and Uganda and Finland. Further, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, World Economic Forum, World LPG Organization, UN Energy for All, UNIDO, Biofutures Platform, International Civil Aviation Organization, International Energy Agency, International Energy Forum, International Renewable Energy Agency, World Biogas Association are the interested international and multilateral organizations.
The three founding members of alliance, the US, India and Brazil contribute about 85% of the global production and the 81% of consumption of ethanol.
Taking to X (formerly Twitter), the prime minister said: "The launch of the Global Biofuels Alliance marks a watershed moment in our quest towards sustainability and clean energy. I thank the member nations who have joined this Alliance."
Mint on Friday reported that the prime minister would launch the alliance on Saturday evening.
China and oil producers Saudi Arabia and Russia have however decided deciding not to be part of the alliance. With an eye on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec)-plus grouping -- where both Saudi Arabia and Russia are members -- the Indian-conceptualized alliance is being positioned as a global forum to help boost demand and technology transfer for the production of biofuels and enhance trade.
India is also looking at increasing its biofuel production through varied sources in a bid to cut its import dependence for fuel at a time when the ‘Opec+' grouping has enforced successive production cuts.
The G20 Leaders' Declaration released on Saturday said that the member countries "recognize the importance of sustainable biofuels in our zero and low- emission
development strategies, and note the setting up of a Global Biofuels Alliance".
The outcome document post the final G20 Energy Transitions Ministers' Meeting held at Goa in July had said that member-countries recognize the potential opportunity of working together for further deployment and development of sustainable biofuels as one of the strategies for advancing the energy transition.
“We take note of the Presidency's initiative to establish a ‘Global Biofuels Alliance'," the document had said in reference to India. It noted that member-countries intend to facilitate cooperation, on a voluntary basis, in intensifying the use of sustainable biofuels through strengthening collaboration between producers, consumers and interested countries, bolstering biofuels markets and encouraging the development of standards in the sector.
According to estimates from the International Energy Agency (IEA), global biofuel production would need to triple by 2030 to put the world's energy systems on track toward net zero emissions by 2050.
In its ambitious energy transition journey, India has committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2070. India also has an ambitious biofuel roadmap. The government has advanced its target to achieve 20% ethanol blending in petrol by 2025-26 from an earlier target of 2030. The target of petrol supplies with 10% ethanol blending was achieved in June last year, ahead of the original schedule of November 2022.
Being set up at par with the International Solar Alliance, the biofuel alliance's focus is on accelerated adoption of biofuels, creating new biofuels, setting globally recognized standards, identifying global best practices, and ensuring industry participation.
The global ethanol market was valued at $99.06 billion in 2022 and is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 5.1% by 2032 and surpass $162.12 billion by 2032.
Source: Live Mint
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Government raises natural gas prices to $8
New Delhi: The government has increased the price of natural gas to $8.60 per metric million British thermal unit (mmBtu) for September, from $7.85 in August.
However, the price of the gas from the nominated gas fields of ONGC and Oil India has been kept unchanged at the price cap of $6.5 per mmBtu.
"The price of domestic natural gas for the 1st September 2023 to 30th September 2023 is notified as $8.60/MMBTU on gross calorific value (GCV) basis," said the notification dated 31 August.
The price of domestic natural gas have been linked to the India crude oil basket since April and is changed every month.
The increase has come in the backdrop of the rise in global crude oil prices on supply concerns. Currently, the November contract of Brent is trading at $87.06 per barrel, higher by 0.26% from its previous close.
In April, the cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA) had approved the new gas pricing guidelines, paving the way for linking domestic natural gas prices in India to global crude prices. Under the approved guidelines, the price of natural gas is calculated at 10% of the monthly average of the Indian crude basket, a weighted average of Dubai and Oman (sour) and Brent Crude (sweet) oil prices.
The Cabinet also approved a floor price of $4 per mmBtu and a ceiling of $6.50 per mmBtu under the Administered Price Mechanism (APM) gas pricing.
According to the government, the new pricing policy is aimed at expanding the consumption of natural gas and achieving the government's target to increase the share of natural gas in the primary energy mix in India from the current 6.5% to 15% by 2030.
The new pricing policy came in the backdrop of high international gas prices. Previously, domestic gas prices were determined based on the domestic gas pricing guidelines approved by the government in 2014. The 2014 pricing guidelines provided for the setting of domestic gas prices for a six-month period based on the volume-weighted prices prevailing at four gas trading hubs - Henry Hub, Albena, National Balancing Point (UK), and Russia for a period of 12 months and a time lag of a quarter.
Source: Live Mint
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FuelBuddy eyes international expansion
New Delhi: Fuel delivery platform FuelBuddy is looking at expanding its global footprint by foraying into Africa. FuelBuddy is an online platform providing doorstep delivery of fuel. Apart from transporting fuels, the company sells lubricants.
As of now, the company has operations in the United Arab Emirates.
"We have started operations in the UAE which we had been committing for some time now. So, operations in the UAE, Dubai have started. We also exploring expanding our presence into one African nation. So that's underway," said Gautam Malhotra, managing director, FuelBuddy.
He said the company's long-term plans also include expanding its network in other West Asian countries. "See the idea of going to UAE was that we will be looking at the complete Middle East market over a period of time. We will be obviously picking market which makes economic sense to us, one which is that just goes to every country possible. We have studied a broad geography and we understand broadly where all we need to hit. Obviously once we move ahead, we will have to do deeper studies. But yeah, that's a strategy."
On the domestic front, Malhotra said, the company has significantly expanded its operations and plans to add 50-60 cities to its portfolio.
(Operations in) India have expanded significantly. I think year on year we have grown about 4 times at a larger base. So, this year also we are targeting India expansion at roughly about three times that of last year sales.
In the last financial year, the company covered around 150 cities and this year, its plans to take the tally to 200 cities.
In FY23, the company sold 6.5 crore ltr of fuel, higher than 1.5-1.7 crore in the previous fiscal. In FY24, the company aims to double the quantum and deliver 13 crore ltr of fuel.
Last year, the company tied up with state-run oil marketing company Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd., entering the lubricants business. In December, it announced another partnership with state-run Indian Oil Corp. Ltd. for supply of its automotive and industrial lubricant, ‘SERVO', to customers across the country.
In January this year, the New Delhi-based startup raised $20 million in equity funding. It was founded in 2016 by Adnan Kidwai, Divij Talwar, Gautam Malhotra, and SK Narvar.
Source: Live Mint
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Sucking a carbon-neutral fuel out of thin air
When in March the European Union approved a law requiring all new cars to have zero carbon emissions from 2035, Germany managed to wangle an exemption for vehicles running on “e-fuels". Some saw it as a charter for producers to continue flogging internal-combustion engined cars to petrol-heads. While it does, indeed, mean some petrol-powered sports cars are likely to remain in production in the future, the hope is they can be powered without overheating the planet.
E-fuels get their name because they are made synthetically, using electricity. The process involves combining hydrogen with carbon to produce various hydrocarbon fuels, such as diesel, petrol or jet fuel.
The hydrogen can be made by using electrolysis to split water into its constituent elements. The carbon comes from carbon dioxide, perhaps captured from an industrial chimney-stack, or even sucked directly out of the atmosphere via so-called direct-air capture systems. Provided both processes are powered by zero-carbon electricity, e-fuels are carbon neutral. After all, the carbon released back into the air when the fuels are burned is the same that was used to make them in the first place.
Although a handful of big plants already make e-fuels for aviation, most obtain their carbon from old cooking oil, animal fat and biomass. Some aim to use direct-air capture, although the technology is still largely at the prototype stage. One such plant is in southern Chile. It is run by a group of companies that includes Porsche, part of the German Volkswagen group. Chile is a windy place, so the factory is powered by a wind turbine. Until its direct-air capture system is ready, the plant is getting carbon dioxide from a brewery, where yeast produces it during fermentation.
For Porsche, cars powered by e-fuels will be a sideline rather than its main business. The firm aims to have more than 80% of its vehicles running on batteries by 2030. Karl Dums, the firm's head of e-fuels, readily agrees that an electric car will always be inherently more efficient than one that runs with e-fuels. (This is because of the extra steps involved in turning electricity into synthetic fuel, rather than just charging a battery directly.) But, he says, there will still be plenty of internal-combustion vehicles on the road after 2030. These could be made greener by filling them with e-fuels.
Dr Dums reckons economies of scale could make e-fuels competitive with fossil ones, perhaps by the end of the decade. And, he says, they offer a convenient way to store surplus renewable energy, or to make it suitable for export. Chile has the potential to produce huge amounts of renewable power. But the wind and the sun are unpredictable, and on some days could produce more electricity than necessary. Chile lacks the long-range grids to transmit that surplus elsewhere. If it were turned into a liquid, though, it could be shipped abroad using existing infrastructure designed for fossil fuels.
“In the end," says Dr Dums, Porsche's business is “fulfilling dreams for our customers." Although electric cars are both smooth and nippy, some of those customers might miss the growl and thunder of a petrol-powered engine. If you do fancy a petrol-powered 911 in the future, e-fuels might allow Porsche to sell you one.
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© 2023, The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved. From The Economist, published under licence. The original content can be found on www.economist.com
Source: Live Mint
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Sebi’s refund to investors of 2 Sahara firms rises to ₹138 crore in 11 years
The markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) on Monday said it has refunded ₹138.07 crore to investors of two Sahara companies in 11 years.
While the amount deposited in specially-opened bank accounts for the repayment has increased to over ₹25,000 crore, the Sebi also said in its annual report.
After a Supreme Court order in August 2012, the two Sahara companies – Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd (SIREL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Ltd (SHICL) -- were ordered to return the money to nearly 3 crore investors along with interest.
The Sebi received 19,650 applications involving 53,687 accounts as on March 31, 2023 for the refund, it said.
“Refunds have been made with respect to 17,526 applications involving 48,326 accounts for an aggregate amount of ₹138.07 crore including the interest amount of ₹67.98 crore," the Sebi said in its report.
According to the report, the total amount refunded by Sebi rose by just ₹7 lakh during the last fiscal year 2022-23, while the balance in Sebi-Sahara refund accounts rose by ₹1,087 crore.
As of March 31, 2023, a total amount of ₹15,646.68 crore has been recovered by the Sebi.
“This amount along with the accrued interest after due refunds to the eligible bondholders, was deposited in nationalised banks in terms of the judgment dated August 31, 2012 of the Supreme Court. As on March 31, 2023, the total amount deposited in nationalised banks is around ₹25,163 crore," Sebi said.
In 2011, the Sebi had ordered SIREL and SHICL to refund the money raised from investors through certain bonds known as Optionally Fully Convertible Bonds (OFCDs) after the regulator ruled that the funds were raised by the two Sahara firms in violation of its rules and regulations.
In July this year, the Union government started a process to refund ₹5,000 crore of depositors whose funds are struck in Sahara Group's four cooperative societies.
Source: Live Mint
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ONGC signs term contract with BPCL for sale of crude oil
New Delhi: Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd. (ONGC) has inked a term contract with Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd. (BPCL) for the sale of crude oil from the Mumbai region, the company said in a statement on Thursday.
The signing ceremony took place at ONGC NBP Green Heights, Mumbai, with key representatives from both companies in attendance. ONGC's Executive Director - Chief Marketing, Sanjay Kumar, and BPCL's Executive Director (IT), Manoj Heda, were among the dignitaries present at the event.
The contract follows the Indian government's decision to grant marketing and pricing freedom for domestic crude oil, replacing the previous allocation mechanism. Under the new regime, ONGC had initiated the first-ever e-auction of Mumbai Offshore crude oil.
BPCL's Mumbai refinery has a longstanding association with ONGC, processing their crude oil since 1976. The pipeline connection between the two entities facilitates seamless logistical operations, making BPCL an ideal partner for ONGC's crude oil sales.
As the energy market dynamics continue to evolve, ONGC remains steadfast in its pursuit of innovation and excellence in the sector, reinforcing its position as a key player in India's oil and gas industry.
Source: Live Mint
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HPCL posts net profit at ₹6
State-owned Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) on Wednesday reported a consolidated net profit at ₹6,765.5 crore in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2023-24.
The company had posted a net loss of ₹8,557 crore in the same period last year.
The oil marketing company's revenue fell at ₹1.18 lakh crore in the June quarter of FY24, as compared to ₹1.21 lakh crore a year ago.
On July 20, Union minister of state for petroleum and natural gas Rameswar Teli said that Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited is setting up a 370-tonne-per-annum electrolyzer-based green hydrogen plant at Visakh Refinery in Andhra Pradesh.
HPCL spent ₹11 crore out of a total fund allocation of ₹33 crore for this project, the minister had said.
The project is scheduled to be completed by September this year.
Source: Live Mint
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Centre increases windfall tax on domestic crude oil
Central Government has hiked windfall tax on domestic crude oil with effect from today. Special Additional Excise Duty (SAED) on crude petroleum increased from ₹1600/tonne to ₹4250/tonne. According to a government notification on Monday, a windfall tax on diesel has been increased to 1 rupee per litre from nil earlier.
Source: Live Mint
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