Mexico’s Next President Promises Pemex Investment

(Bloomberg, Amy Stillman, 30.Jul.2018) – Mexico’s incoming president named a new chief executive officer for Pemex and promised government investment of 75 billion pesos ($4 billion) in the oil sector, in a bid to revive the state-owned oil company.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador tapped longtime political ally Octavio Romero Oropeza, who has no oil background, as the next CEO of Petroleos Mexicanos. Romero will take over when the new government comes in this December. The announcement came at an event in which the president-elect promised to boost crude output as part of a 175-billion-peso rescue plan for the industry. He said 49 billion pesos will be spent on refinery upgrades.

Romero, 59, was a government official during Lopez Obrador’s five-year term as the mayor of Mexico City from 2000 to 2005. He also shares the same birthplace as the leftist leader, the oil hub of Tabasco. Lopez Obrador has said he wants to to revitalize oil ghost towns there and build a new refinery near the port of Dos Bocas at a cost of 160 billion pesos.

For a career politician with a degree in agronomy, turning around the beleaguered oil company won’t be easy.

“It’s a political appointment for an entity whose debt represents about 14% of gross domestic product,” John Padilla, managing director of energy consultant IPD Latin America LLC, said in a phone interview. “Whether that’s going to give markets a lot of confidence at this stage, at a point when Pemex is in such a debilitated state, remains to be seen.”

Romero, who replaces Carlos Trevino, will inherit a mountain of debt — more than $100 billion — and oil production that is in free-fall. Pemex pumped 1.866 MMbbl of crude a day during the second quarter, its 13th consecutive decline compared to the same period in previous years. And even as oil prices rise, the company on Friday reported a 163-billion-peso loss, the worst quarterly result since 2016.

The company expects to average 1.9 MMbpd in the third quarter of the year and 1.95 MMbbl in the fourth quarter, Luis Ramos, deputy director of exploration and production at Pemex, said on a conference call with investors. Pemex’s proven and probable reserves have dropped by more than half since 2012, as older fields become depleted and the company fails to develop ones.

Refinery upgrades

Pemex’s refining business is in such poor condition, with aging units struggling to process less expensive heavier crudes, that it loses money if it raises output. The problem has created a reverse incentive to refine less and import more. The plants, which processed 22% less crude than last year at 704,000 bpd, operated at 43% of capacity between April and June, company data show.

Lopez Obrador, who won a landslide victory in national elections on July 1, has promised to change that. He said he will prioritize raising refinery output to full capacity in two years, and build the new refinery in Tabasco.

He also named Manuel Bartlett as head of the Federal Electricity Commission, Rocio Nahle to the post of energy minister and Alberto Montoya as deputy energy minister.

Under Lopez Obrador’s predecessor, international oil companies had recently been allowed to re-enter Mexico’s production areas after being banned for more than 70 years. The new president could suspend oil auctions and review contracts already awarded for signs of corruption. The National Hydrocarbons Commission said last week that an auction to develop seven onshore areas in partnership with Pemex will now be held on February 14, from October 31 previously. A competitive bid for over 40 onshore areas will take place the same day after being pushed back from September 27.

The company is also seeking to raise an additional $3 billion to $3.5 billion in debt before the end of the year “if market conditions are favorable,” Pemex CFO David Ruelas said on a conference call with investors. Pemex’s total debt was 2.07 trillion pesos as of June 30 an increase from 1.95 trillion pesos three months earlier.

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