India’s Essar Oil picks Trafigura, BP for $1 billion oil-backed loan

Essar Oil has long relied entirely on funding from Indian banks. (Reuters)
Updated 20 March 2018
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India’s Essar Oil picks Trafigura, BP for $1 billion oil-backed loan

LONDON: Essar Oil has picked Trafigura and BP to lend it $1 billion to be repaid with cargoes of refined products as the Indian refiner’s new owners seek to diversify the firm’s financing base, sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.
Russian oil major Rosneft, fund UCP and Swiss commodities trader Trafigura bought Essar Oil’s large refinery, 3,500 fuel stations and infrastructure for $12.9 billion last year.
Essar Oil has long relied entirely on funding from Indian banks while the new shareholders want to reduce exchange costs by adding alternative financing sources and directly use dollars to buy its oil instead.
Late last year, the refiner began talks with traders to raise cash in exchange for refined products such as gasoline and gasoil delivered over three to four years. It would be the refiner’s first major multi-year prepayment.
The sources said that Trafigura and BP were jointly working to structure and then syndicate the loan with banks in the next few weeks.
BP and Trafigura declined to comment, while Essar was not immediately available.
Existing and possible new US sanctions will complicate discussions, banking sources said.
Kremlin-owned Rosneft has been under US sanctions since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the refiner also runs significant oil volumes coming from Iran and Venezuela.
While the international oil embargo on Iran was lifted in early 2016, US restrictions on dollar use in connection to Iran remain. President Donald Trump has also repeatedly criticized the nuclear pact with Tehran and threatened to stop extending US sanctions relief.
Trump’s nomination of Iran hawk Mike Pompeo as the new secretary of state has fueled fears of an end to sanctions relief.
The US has also considered oil sanctions on Venezuela.


Microsoft soars past $800 billion in value after bumper results

Updated 6 min 11 sec ago
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Microsoft soars past $800 billion in value after bumper results

LONDON: Shares of Microsoft Corp. were set to open at a record high on Friday, after the company reported another blockbuster quarter, backed by growth in its legacy software business and Azure cloud computing services.
Shares of one of the technology world’s oldest and best-known names rose 4 percent to $108.50 in trading before the bell, potentially adding nearly $32 billion to a market capitalization that was already $802 billion at close on Thursday.
At least six brokerages raised their price targets on the company’s stock after the results.
Helped by a boom in demand for cloud-based software, Microsoft has more than doubled in value since Satya Nadella took over as chief executive in 2014 and refocused the software behemoth on newer businesses.
While Microsoft’s core productivity and business processes unit, which includes the Office 365 software suite, rose 13.1 percent to $9.67 billion, revenue for the Azure cloud service jumped 89 percent.
“Based on the results, they were able to beat on all major metrics that people were focusing on. I don’t see anything that should raise an eyebrow of concern,” said Daniel Morgan, a portfolio manager at Synovus Trust who holds 418,716 Microsoft shares.
Microsoft has been investing heavily to bolster the fast-growing cloud business and catch up with market leader Amazon.com Inc’s Amazon Web Services.
It also competes with Alphabet Inc, IBM and Alibaba.
“Our early investments in the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge are paying off, and we will continue to expand our reach in large and growing markets with differentiated innovation,” Nadella said on a conference call on Thursday.
Analysts expect the investments to pay off in the long run and provide rich dividends to shareholders, allowing Microsoft to rival Apple Inc. and Amazon in the race to be the first company worth $1 trillion.
“Our view on MSFT is unchanged: the stock is our favorite large cap name and we expect MSFT to deliver 10-20% annual stock price appreciation for the next several years,” Canaccord Genuity analyst Richard Davis wrote in a client note.
Of the 35 analysts covering the stock, 31 have a “buy” or higher rating, three are on “hold” and only one on “strong sell.”
“Microsoft has successfully come from behind to exceed Amazon’s cloud revenue, and that gap is only increasing in Microsoft’s favor,” Mark Sami, vice president at consultancy firm SPR said.
“I predict that Microsoft’s cloud market share will continue to grow and impress investors.”