Pemex Places $2 Billion Bond In International Markets

Pemex CEO Carlos Treviño Medina. Source: Pemex

(Pemex, 16.Oct.2018) — Petróleos Mexicanos in September disclosed the application of a series of operating and marketing measures could generate an improvement of 30 billion pesos on the 2018 balance sheet, placing the company at an approximate deficit of 49.414 billion pesos, instead of the deficit for 79.414 billion pesos that was originally approved by the Congress.

In line with the above, Pemex is reducing its debt outlook for 2018, this will focus exclusively on financing the updated deficit of 49.414 billion pesos. In the framework of the financing program authorized for 2018, today the company placed a bond in the international debt markets:

— The total amount of the bond is 2 billion American dollars, with a 10-year maturity.

— This placement’s maturity date is due on January 2029 and yields an interest rate of approximately 6.5 per cent for the investor.

The resources from this emission will be used to comply with Pemex’s investment program, as well as to liquidate or refinance debt to its favor. This operation strengthens the cash level for the end of 2018 and guarantees the company’s liquidity for the beginning of 2019.

The placements performed throughout the year are directed towards the appropriate functioning of the company in compliance with its Business Plan. During the issuance process, talks were held with the transition team for the new Federal Administration.

Investors, mainly from United States, Europe, Middle East, Asia, and Mexico participated in this transaction, which had a demand of 5.9 times the amount placed. Placement agents for this bond were HSBC, J.P. Morgan, Scotiabank and UBS.

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Mexico’s AMLO Presses Big Oil To Start Pumping From Recent Finds

(Oilprice.com, Tsvetana Paraskova, 16.Oct.2018) — Mexico wants Big Oil to start producing from the recently discovered oil fields in Mexico as soon as possible, incoming President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told foreign executives at a recent meeting, Reuters reported on Tuesday, quoting sources and executives who attended the meeting.

In this first meeting with major international oil companies operating in Mexico, however, the president-elect didn’t give any indication whether new oil blocks will be offered and oil tenders held, according to attendees who spoke to Reuters.

Outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto opened up the energy sector to foreign investment in 2013, ending 70 years of state monopoly. Since then, Mexico has held several successful auctions that have attracted oil majors to its oil and gas exploration industry.

However, incoming president López Obrador, who takes office in December, has been critical of the energy reform and has vowed to review the contracts that foreign firms have already signed with Mexico.

In July, Mexico’s energy regulator postponed two oil auctions that were set for September and October to February 2019, after López Obrador takes office this December. Then in August, reports emerged that the incoming administration was thinking of indefinitely halting competitive tenders for oil and gas in Mexico.

Last month, the incoming administration began the review process for a contract with a consortium led by U.S. Talos Energy.

Talos Energy’s chief executive Tim Duncan was one of the executives who met with López Obrador at the first meeting with foreign oil firms at the end of September.
“We know we have to exceed expectations and we’re trying to make sure we do that,” Duncan told Reuters.

López Obrador wants to reverse a decline in Mexico’s oil production as many oil fields are maturing. Mexico’s current oil production stands at about 1.84 million bpd, of which 60 percent is exported.

López Obrador signaled at the meeting that he would put around 20 currently idle drilling rigs of Mexican oil service firms to work for state energy firm Pemex, three executives who attended the meeting told Reuters.

The incoming president still needs to show that he is on board with foreign investments and still needs to hold tenders if he is to meet his goal of reversing the slide in production.

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Mexico And Brazil’s Crude Politics

(Foreign Policy, Lisa Viscidi, .16.Oct.2018) — A potential return to resource nationalism could set both countries back.

Until this year, resource nationalism—when a government asserts its control over a country’s natural resources—seemed to be on the wane in Latin America. With oil prices low, state oil companies were struggling, and market-friendly governments had started opening their energy industries to private investment.

In the coming months, though, the region’s two largest economies may both have new leaders who came to power on promises of a return to the old days. In Mexico, President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s vow to restore Mexico’s state energy companies to their glory days and his emphasis on energy independence from the United States were central to his campaign. Similarly, Brazilian presidential candidate Fernando Haddad (who is polling well behind his rival, Jair Bolsonaro, but could still eke out a win later this month) wants to reassert state oil and power companies’ dominant positions in Brazilian energy markets. Both López Obrador and Haddad have argued that the current Mexican and Brazilian governments, in trying to open energy sectors to private investment, have effectively handed over state assets to foreign companies.

This is not the first time Latin American countries have flip-flopped on resource nationalism. The idea was initially championed in the 1950s and ’60s by Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo, the Venezuelan oil minister who helped found OPEC, and Getúlio Vargas, the Brazilian president who created the state oil company Petrobras in 1953. The slogan he gave it: “O petróleo é nosso,” or “The oil is ours.”

In the 1990s, historically low oil prices pushed Latin America’s energy sectors toward privatization. Petrobras shares were floated on the São Paulo and New York stock exchanges. Argentina’s state oil company, YPF, was sold off to private investors entirely. Then, in the early 2000s, as oil prices rose again, governments across the region began expropriating energy assets. A wave of recent reforms, again tied to low prices, encouraged private investment once more. In Mexico and Brazil, however, these reforms were never popular. And so, in both countries, the idea of energy sovereignty, part of a broader economic nationalist and protectionist approach, is again taking root.

For his part, López Obrador has long criticized the energy reform that the current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, signed into law in December 2013. That reform revised the constitution to open the oil and power sectors to greater private investment, creating competition for state monopolies. As a presidential candidate, López Obrador condemned the opening as putting the country’s riches into foreign rather than Mexican hands. Now, he wants to strengthen the state oil company, Pemex. He has vowed to increase Pemex’s investment budget to boost oil production, which has plummeted to 1.8 million barrels per day from a peak of 3.4 million barrels per day in 2004. His goal of 2.6 million barrels per day by the end of his term in 2024 is ambitious.

In order to end imports of gasoline from the United States by 2022, another of the president-elect’s goals, López Obrador plans to build a new refinery in his home state of Tabasco and upgrade six existing refineries, which would add over 1 million barrels per day in output if all existing refineries ran at full capacity. Mexico produces mostly heavy crude oil, much of which it ships to the United States for refining. It then imports about 1.3 million barrels per day of refined products back from the United States for domestic consumption. At the same time, López Obrador has promised Mexican voters a decrease in gasoline prices. The Peña Nieto government had cut gasoline subsidies just as international oil prices started to rise again, causing a 20 percent bump in fuel prices.

In the power sector, López Obrador plans to strengthen the state utility company and expand hydroelectric capacity in Mexico to slash imports of natural gas. In recent years, Mexico has become a critical market for U.S. shale gas as the pipeline infrastructure between the two countries has been beefed up. Cheap U.S. natural gas has also lowered the cost of electricity generation in Mexico, so tapering off the imports could hurt on both sides of the border.

In Brazil, the polarizing right-wing candidate Bolsonaro, who won 46 percent of the vote in the country’s first-round presidential election on Oct. 7, will face Haddad, a left-wing candidate from the Workers’ Party, in a second round later this month.

Bolsonaro has said that he is open to foreign investment, privatizing state companies, and creating more competition in oil and gas markets. He would likely push onward with the Petrobras divestment plan that was started under the current center-right president, Michel Temer. As part of that plan, which was designed to reduce Petrobras’s enormous debt, the company has sold off assets in refining, logistics, and transport to focus on its more profitable core business of oil exploration and production. Continued privatization is worthwhile, but beyond his support for it, Bolsonaro has been widely criticized for lacking any specific energy plan or even a detailed economic agenda.

Haddad, meanwhile, is fairly clear in his support for a return to the resource nationalism favored by his fellow Workers’ Party member former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Following the 2007 discovery of vast deepwater oil reserves, Lula introduced reforms that increased the government’s stake in Petrobras and made the state company the exclusive operator of the new fields. Temer later signed a law that reversed Lula’s bill, creating more opportunities for private investment in the sector. Haddad has promised to reverse Temer’s reversal and recover the oil to benefit the people. He has also pledged to strengthen Petrobras and to support the development of local industries by increasing local content requirements in oil exploitation and production. In short, Haddad would likely look to slow Petrobras’s divestment to keep energy assets in the state company’s hands and reassert its role as a driver of economic development.

Once in office, the new leaders of Mexico and Brazil will inevitably face challenges to implementing many of their plans. It is unlikely that Brazil’s next president will have enough support in Congress to overturn Temer’s law, for example. Likewise, in Mexico, although the president has broad powers to roll back aspects of the energy reform, only a two-thirds congressional majority—which López Obrador is unlikely to secure—can undo a constitutional reform. And in both countries, the administrations would face major legal challenges if they tried to unilaterally change existing contracts with private energy companies.

And then there’s the budget to think of. New refineries cost billions of dollars, are highly susceptible to corruption, and ultimately won’t lower gasoline prices for consumers. Expanding large hydroelectric dams also takes money, and it presents tremendous social and environmental challenges. Forcing a state oil company to operate all exploration and production projects risks massive corporate debt and a credit rating downgrade—precisely what happened to Petrobras under Lula and his successor, Dilma Rousseff. Meanwhile, strict local content requirements that are not coupled with programs to modernize local suppliers merely slow the development of oil and gas reserves. Despite the discovery of the undersea reserves in 2007—one of the most significant oil finds in the world in years—Brazil’s oil production remained nearly flat for years.

State-led development of energy resources can be very successful. Witness Saudi Aramco, the state oil company that has made Saudi Arabia one of the largest oil producers in the world. But experience in Latin America suggests that giving state companies a monopoly over energy production tends to restrict the industry rather than boosting it. And beyond that, it is worth considering whether it is wise to continue depending on oil to float the economy at all. As many other countries around the world, from nearby Colombia to Saudi Arabia, debate whether the time has come to transition the economy away from dependence on fossil fuels, in Mexico and Brazil, debates over energy policy continue to focus on nationalization versus privatization.

Considering resource nationalism’s poor track record in actually benefiting most citizens, it is time for these countries to shift the focus of policy discussions toward addressing today’s more pressing problems.

Lisa Viscidi is the director of the Energy, Climate Change, and Extractive Industries Program at the Inter-American Dialogue.

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Texas Would Have A ‘Party’ If Mexico Prohibited Fracking

(Energy Analytics Institute, Ian Silverman, 16.Oct.2018) — Prohibiting fracking in a generalized manner, as announced by Mexico’s president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), would be an error that would benefit the United States.

“I’d regret this initiative to ban fracking in a general way in our country. The day it happens there would be a party in Texas for the gift we Mexicans are giving them,” reported Mexican media El Financiero, citing Mexico’s Energy Secretariat Pedro Joaquín Coldwell. “It would condemn [Mexico] to continue importing gas.”

Besides, approximately 53% of Mexico’s gas reserves are precisely unconventional resources, he added.

Fracking has been carried out in Mexico since 1960, and nearly 22% of the wells that have been exploited in conventional deposits have used this controversial technique in one way or another, announced Coldwell.

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Argentina Looks to Cease Bolivian Gas Imports By 2020

(Energy Analytics Institute, Jared Yamin, 16.Oct.2018) — With its own gas projects to develop, Argentina is seeking to reduce imports of natural gas and by 2020 it expects to stop buying it completely from Bolivia.

In the run up period, Argentina looks to reduce Bolivian gas imports by 20% in 2018, by 50% in 2019, and by 2020 they would no longer be necessary, reported Bolivian media La Razon, citing Argentina’s Energy Secretary Javier Iguacel.

The plan announced by the Argentine official is based on three current massive developments and four other promised in the Vaca Muerta formation, which spans four provinces: Neuquén, Río Negro, La Pampa and Mendoza.

Currently, the Neuquén Basin produces almost 70 million cubic meters of gas per day (MMcm/d) and Argentina expects to boost production in the basin to nearly 90 MMcm/d with additional investments.

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Mexico’s Lopez Obrador Pushes Big Oil To Hurry, But Offers Little

(Reuters, David Alire Garcia, Marianna Parraga, 16.Oct.2018) — At his first meeting with foreign oil majors, Mexico’s leftist president-elect pushed the companies to prove themselves by quickly pumping oil from recent finds, sources say, but gave no sign of offering up new fields to reverse dwindling output.

President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador repeated a promise to respect more than 100 existing contracts awarded following a sweeping five-year-old energy overhaul as long as a review by his team finds no corruption. And he added: companies must show results, three executives who attended the meeting said.

For U.S. independent Talos Energy, which is developing a high-profile, big offshore discovery announced last year along with partners Premier Oil and Sierra Oil & Gas, Lopez Obrador’s message was clear: quickly bring new streams of production online.

“We know we have to exceed expectations and we’re trying to make sure we do that,” said Talos Energy CEO Tim Duncan, one of the executives who attended the session.

At the Sept. 27 meeting, the president-elect also criticized the 2013 constitutional reform for failing to stop an extended output slide.

Operators such as Talos and Italy’s Eni, which also announced a major offshore find last year, are on Lopez Obrador’s watch list to pump oil quickly, said Carlos Pascual, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico who now helps run consultancy IHS Markit’s global energy business.

“The focus on increased barrels is going to create greater pressure for some companies,” he said.

The oil and gas blocks awarded in bidding rounds over the past three years to companies including Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron will result in $160 billion in new investment, the outgoing government estimates.

Lopez Obrador’s pick to be the new oil minister, Rocio Nahle, did not respond to a request for comment about Lopez Obrador’s presentation.

RIG OIL NOT BIG OIL

At the meeting, Lopez Obrador also explained he intends to put some 20 idle drilling rigs belonging to a few Mexican service firms to work for state giant Pemex, according to three executives who attended the meeting.

The executives, who asked not to be named to avoid any ill-will from the incoming government, said they were surprised at the decision to talk up the service contracts for Pemex instead of encouraging much bigger investments the oil companies are capable of making.

A former senior executive with Pemex said the plan could add at most 150,000 barrels per day (bpd) to Mexico’s 1.8 million bpd production in a year, far short of the 40 percent increase to 2.6 million bpd he is targeting during his six year term.

Lopez Obrador is a long-time critic of the energy reform that brought major oil companies to Mexico for the first time in more than 70 years, and has warned he will not offer up more areas for auction.

Oil companies still hope he will soften that position in order to meet his ambitious production goals.

The veteran leftist politician adopted a diplomatic tone at the industry session, said the company executives, and his team even pledged to ease regulatory delays companies face.

“Reality could force pragmatism,” said an oil executive who attended the meeting, arguing it is highly unlikely Mexico could meet Lopez Obrador’s lofty output goal with government spending alone.

As an indicator, firms are closely watching whether oil auctions set for February by Mexico’s independent oil regulator will be canceled or postponed after Lopez Obrador takes office in December.

If that happens, along with the pledge to focus production plans on squeezing more out of Pemex fields with local rigs, outside investment could cool for years in Mexico’s oil patch, home to under-explored shale plays and the country’s potentially lucrative deepwater Gulf of Mexico, according to the executives and sector analysts.

The head of the oil regulator, Juan Carlos Zepeda, has said Pemex would need to dedicate $20 billion each year to exploration and production activities to hit Lopez Obrador’s output goal, about double this year’s budget.

Advisor Rocio Nahle, Lopez Obrador’s pick to be energy minister, said last month Pemex will be allocated about $4 billion for “exploration and drilling” in 2019, without going into detail.

The nearly two hour meeting between Lopez Obrador and oil company executives ended with a promise to maintain “continuous dialogue” going forward

However, there was no question-and-answer period, and following the set speeches, Lopez Obrador and his senior energy aides quickly departed. No new meetings have yet been scheduled.

One attendee bluntly quipped afterwards: “He really doesn’t like us.”

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