Iraq may have twice as much oil as previously thought, says minister

Jabar Al-Luaibi said Iraq’s oil reserves may be double their current estimated level. (REUTERS)
Updated 29 March 2018
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Iraq may have twice as much oil as previously thought, says minister

LONDON: Iraq’s oil reserves may be double their current estimated level, according to the country’s oil minister, as OPEC’s second-largest producer invited tenders for the exploration of 11 oil and gas blocks in the country’s south and east.
Jabar Al-Luaibi made the prediction at an energy conference in Baghdad on Wednesday, Reuters reported, with his comments subsequently echoed by Adnan Al-Janabi, head of the Iraqi parliament’s oil and gas commission.
The doubling of the country’s proven reserves would see Iraq overtake Saudi Arabia to contend with Venezuela for the title of the country with the largest proven reserves.
The South American nation says it has just over 300 billion barrels worth of proven reserves, a claim met with skepticism by some market analysts, with much of its reserves consisting of hard-to-access heavy oil in the country’s Orinoco belt.
Iraq last year upgraded its reserve estimates to 153 billion barrels from their previous level of 143 billion.
The oil minister’s statement is more likely to relate to future possible increases in resources, rather than an immediate upgrade to current reserves, said Robin Mills, CEO of UAE-based Qamar Energy.
“I don’t think it has any impact on the short- or medium-term output from Iraq, but it does emphasize the tension between OPEC restraint and Iraq’s plans for production growth,” he said.
The country plans to boost crude production to more than 5 million barrels per day from the current level of 4.35 billion.
However Al-Luaibi insisted that it “definitely will not deviate from the overall decision of OPEC” when it comes to the possible extension of a deal between OPEC and other producers to cut production, due to expire at the end of the year, Reuters reported.
Speaking at the same event, OPEC Secretary-General Moham-med Barkindo told the conference that the bloc was seeking “very long-term” cooperation with non-OPEC producers.
His remarks follow comments earlier this week by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that the Kingdom is in discussions with Russia to forge an unprecedented 10-20 year cooperation agreement, building on the success of 2016’s agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC producers to cut output to support oil prices.
Brent crude futures, which slumped below $30 a barrel in early 2016, have recovered as a result of the production cut agreement, trading at about $70 a barrel this week.
Barkindo told conference delegates in Baghdad that OPEC was evaluating the impact of the deal to determine the “appropriate action” when it expired at the end of this year.
“In addition to the 24 countries that came to sign the declaration of cooperation in November, we have six more producing countries who came to show solidarity,” he said.
Al-Luaibi said that several oil exporters have suggested a six-month extension to the deal, declining to name them.
Barkindo said that investment in the industry was increasing following the recovery in prices, but had yet to reach levels witnessed before prices began falling in late 2014.


Ericsson swings to profit as savings kick in; shares jump

Updated 53 min 44 sec ago
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Ericsson swings to profit as savings kick in; shares jump

  • The Swedish mobile telecom gear maker has met an industry-wide downturn and mounting losses by sweeping cost cuts
  • Bolstering investor optimism are expectations that Ericsson is on the cusp of a new cycle of network upgrades

STOCKHOLM: Mobile telecom equipment maker Ericsson unexpectedly swung to a modest operating profit in the second quarter, boosted by growing sales in North America and said it was increasingly confident of meeting its longer-term targets.
The Swedish mobile telecom gear maker has met an industry-wide downturn and mounting losses by sweeping cost cuts, clearing out most of its top management and setting a strategy to focus on profitability over growth.
It had been in the red since the third quarter of 2016 and its return to profit sent its shares up 10 percent by 0816 GMT. “A trend of good execution (is) starting to emerge,” UBS analysts said of the latest results.
Bolstering investor optimism are expectations that Ericsson is on the cusp of a new cycle of network upgrades as demand for next-generation 5G gear kicks in later this year or early in 2019, starting in the United States.
Its shares have gained more than 36 percent in the year to date, buoyed by progress toward meeting its 2020 financial targets and hopes for a 5G-led industry growth cycle.
Marking its second consecutive quarter of substantial progress toward hitting its 2020 financial goals, the Swedish firm reported an operating profit of 0.2 billion crowns ($23 million), excluding restructuring charges of 2.0 billion crowns.
The operating profit compared to a 0.5 billion loss in the year earlier quarter. Analysts, on average, had forecast an 0.1 billion loss for the second quarter in a Reuters poll.
“We have good market traction in Networks, with a sales growth of 2 percent, particularly in North America where all major operators are preparing for 5G,” CEO Borje Ekholm said in a statement.
Networks, which accounts for two-thirds of Ericsson sales, rose 2 percent, year on year, buoyed by 15 percent growth in North America, Ericsson’s largest market. But they fell around 5 percent in South and Southeast Asia, North East Asia and the Middle East and Africa. Europe grew just 1 percent.
Ericsson appears to be benefiting from rising competition among the four top US carriers, which are all racing to be the first to deliver 5G in dozens of American cities. 5G has become a test of US technology leadership in the country’s growing stand-off with China over trade and national security.
Overall, Ericsson’s net sales dipped 1 percent in the second quarter compared to a year ago, reflecting the bottoming out of sharp declines for the mobile equipment industry since 4G sales peaked in 2015 and the expectation of a return to growth in 2020.
Ericsson Chief Financial Officer Carl Mellander said the company was focused on meeting its 2020 profitability targets but warned that quarterly results may still be up and down.
The CFO said that while the first commercial use of 5G would kick off later this year, the business was largely being driven by North America. “But material volumes... we maintain that will be in 2020,” he cautioned.
Ericsson, once the world’s biggest supplier of mobile communications gear, is facing falling spending by telecom operators, weakness in formerly fast-growing emerging markets and stiff competition from bigger telecom equipment players Huawei of China and Nokia of Finland.
The company said it had recently finished an annual cost-cutting program that saved more than 10 billion crowns, which would increasingly result in higher earnings.
Its second quarter gross margin, excluding restructuring charges, was 36.7 percent, versus 35.9 in the first quarter, driven mainly by cost reductions across its business divisions and the ramp-up in sales of its flagship 5G-ready radio gear.
The company has pledged to deliver a gross margin of 37-39 percent and an operating margin of at least 10 percent by 2020 and better than 12 percent heading into the next decade.