WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Oil trading is reflecting regional security concerns

Brent crude and WTI prices rose to $65.20 and $57.43 per barrel respectively as oil traders were distracted from worries over supply to concerns about security in the Middle East region. (AP)
Updated 23 June 2019
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WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Oil trading is reflecting regional security concerns

  • Up until this week, Brent had been on a downward trajectory
  • As we move into the last week of June, Iranian oil exports remain at historic lows

RIYADH: It has taken a while but the oil market has finally responded to tensions in the Arabian Gulf. Brent crude and WTI prices rose to $65.20 and $57.43 per barrel respectively as oil traders were distracted from worries over supply to concerns about security.
Up until this week, Brent had been on a downward trajectory with the price unable to break out of the low $60’s since the end of May as the market focused on weaker demand projections, in part linked to escalating trade tensions and the fallout from the US-China trade war.
With the market now focused not only on the threat of military escalation in the Strait of Hormuz but also falling US crude oil and gasoline stockpiles, the bulls are once again on the rampage.
As we move into the last week of June, Iranian oil exports remain at historic lows as Tehran is shunned by global refiners. We are also seeing the resumption of stronger buying appetite as Asian refiners try to secure oil cargoes before the end of the month, after having waited so long to do so in the hope that prices would keep falling after persistent oil short-selling surges amid concerns of slowing oil demand.
Part of the downward movement in oil prices last month was attribute to weak refining margins for Naphtha. However, if oil prices continue to rise, this might end the weakest Naphtha refining margins in years.
Naphtha margins have been negative since early 2018 with Asia awash with light distillate amid plentiful supplies.
The ample supplies of light sweet crude which comes mainly from US shale also contributed to this bearishness as Asian refiners can’t absorb as much of this type of oil as the sour medium to heavy grades from the Arabian Gulf.
The light sweet crude grades are a shorthand for oil that has less than 0.5 percent sulfur content. These light sweet crude grades yield more naphtha and gasoline than medium and heavy sour alternatives.


BMW picks insider Zipse as CEO to catch up with rivals

Oliver Zipse
Updated 19 July 2019
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BMW picks insider Zipse as CEO to catch up with rivals

  • German giant has lost ground to Mercedes-Benz and Tesla as tech steps up

FRANKFURT: BMW has named Oliver Zipse as its new CEO, continuing the German carmaker’s tradition of promoting production chiefs to the top job even as the auto industry expands into new areas such as technology and services.
Hailing Zipse’s “decisive” leadership style, BMW hopes the 55-year-old can help it win back its edge in electric cars and the premium market  from rival Mercedes-Benz.
But some analysts questioned whether Zipse was the right choice with new fields such as software and services like car-sharing becoming increasingly important.
“What is intriguing is the cultural bias to appoint the head of production. It works sometimes but ... being good at building cars is not a defining edge the way it was 20 years ago,” said Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois.
Current CEO Harald Krueger, and former chiefs Norbert Reithofer, Bernd Pischetsrieder and Joachim Milberg were all former production heads.
Zipse joined BMW as a trainee in 1991 and served as head of brand and product strategies and boss of BMW’s Oxford plant in England before joining the board.
He will become chief executive on Aug. 16, taking over from Krueger who said he would not be available for a second term.
“With Oliver Zipse, a decisive strategic and analytical leader will assume the Chair of the Board of Management of BMW. He will provide fresh momentum in shaping  the future,” said Reithofer.
Zipse helped expand BMW’s efficient production network in Hungary, China and the US, in a move that delivered industry-leading profit margins.
Under Krueger, BMW was overtaken in 2016 by Mercedes-Benz as the best-selling luxury car brand.
It also had an early lead over US  rival Tesla in electric cars, but scaled back ambitions after its i3 model failed to sell large numbers.
Reithofer initially championed Krueger’s low-key consensus-seeking leadership, but pressured him to roll out electric vehicles more aggressively, forcing Krueger to skip the Paris Motor Show in 2016 to reevaluate BMW’s electric strategy.
Krueger’s reluctance to push low-margin electric vehicles led to an exodus of talented electric vehicle experts, including Christian Senger, now Volkswagen’s (VW) board member responsible for software, and Audi’s Markus Duesmann, who is seen as a future CEO of the company.
Both were poached by VW CEO Herbert Diess, a former BMW board member responsible for research who was himself passed over for BMW’s top job in 2015.
VW has since pushed a radical 80 billion euro ($90 billion) electric car mass production strategy, and a sweeping alliance with Ford.

Other skills
“A CEO needs to have an idea for how mobility will evolve in the future. This goes far beyond optimising an existing business,” said Carsten Breitfeld, chief executive of China-based ICONIQ motors, and former BMW engineer. “He needs to build teams, attract talent, and promote a culture oriented along consumer electronics and internet dynamics.”
German manufacturers have dominated the high-performance market for decades, but analysts warn shifts towards sophisticated technology and software is opening the door to new challengers.
“Tesla has a lead of three to four years in areas like software and electronics. There is a risk that the Germans can’t catch up,” UBS analyst Patrick Hummel said.
Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport car magazine, normally quick to champion German manufacturers, this week ran a cover questioning BMW’s future.
“Production expertise is important, but if you want to avoid ending up being a hardware provider for Google or Apple, you need to have the ability to move up the food chain into data and software,” a former BMW board member said.