WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Arabian crude demand picture improves

A maze of crude oil pipes and valves is pictured during a tour by the Department of Energy at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Freeport, Texas, U.S. June 9, 2016. (REUTERS)
Updated 07 July 2019
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WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Arabian crude demand picture improves

  • Before the trade war, China was the largest oil importer of US shale oil, with almost 500,000 bpd last year that went to zero once the trade dispute started even though Beijing has not imposed tariffs on US crude imports

Despite two major news events that should have supported the oil price, the market finished the week on a bearish note.
At the G20 summit, the US and China agreed not to escalate tariffs and instead resume trade talks. Meanwhile OPEC and its allies outside the group agreed a nine-month extension of production cuts taking us through the first quarter of 2020.
OPEC+, as the enlarged group has come to be known, also sealed a long-term cooperation agreement “the Charter of Cooperation,” which aims to bring the 24 oil producing countries together to promote stability to a market that has been characterized by intense volatility in recent months.
So that all makes for a higher oil price? Well, not quite — as broader macroeconomic concerns kept a lid on prices as traders looked to the overall global demand picture.
Brent crude fell to $64.23 per barrel at the end of the week. The grade remains some 15 percent off its late-April high, despite escalating tensions in the Arabian Gulf as shipping premiums soar because of the increased risk of attacks on tankers.
Still, the OPEC+ output cuts extension has made sour crude oil grades from the Arabian Gulf firmer amid a stronger physical spot market for medium and heavy sour crude grades.
This was clearly shown in a narrower Brent/Dubai spread that points to stronger demand for Arabian Gulf sour crude grades.
The resumption of trade negotiations between the world’s two largest economies should pave the way for the recovery of commodity trade flows between the pair.
 So though we have not seen it yet, that should eventually be reflected in a stronger oil price.
Despite the expected positive recovery of commodity trade flows, oil traders seem focused on the volatile geopolitical situation.
Some suggest that shale oil producers are the biggest beneficiary in gaining market share as US shale will likely continue to define the future of OPEC+.
However, it is questionable whether US shale producers will continue to pump more oil at lower prices, given that they are not profitable at current price levels.
Before the trade war, China was the largest oil importer of US shale oil, with almost 500,000 bpd last year that went to zero once the trade dispute started even though Beijing has not imposed tariffs on US crude imports.
A resumption of more normalized trade flows between the US and China should benefit demand for US oil, especially after the removal of Iranian and Venezuelan barrels from the market.
Faisal Faeq is an energy and oil marketing adviser. He was formerly with OPEC and Saudi Aramco. Twitter:@faisalfaeq


BMW picks insider Zipse as CEO to catch up with rivals

Oliver Zipse
Updated 20 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.