Oil at 6-week high on Gulf of Mexico storm, Iran tensions

US oil producers cut nearly a third of their output in the Gulf of Mexico, above, ahead of what could be one of the first major storms of the Atlantic hurricane season. (Reuters)
Updated 11 July 2019
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Oil at 6-week high on Gulf of Mexico storm, Iran tensions

  • Oil prices were also supported by a decline in US inventories
  • Stocks have now fallen for four consecutive weeks, the Energy Information Administration said

LONDON: Oil prices hit a six-week high on Thursday as oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico were evacuated ahead of a storm, while an incident with a British tanker in the Middle East highlighted tensions in the region.
Brent crude futures reversed early losses and were up 40 cents at $67.41 a barrel by 0852 GMT. Earlier in the session they hit their highest since May 30 at $67.65, after ending Wednesday up 4.4 percent.
US West Texas Intermediate crude futures were up 33 cents, at $60.76 a barrel, having earlier touched their highest since May 23 at $60.94. They gained 4.5 percent in the previous session.
A day after Iran warned Britain would face “consequences” over the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker, three Iranian vessels tried to block the passage of a British ship run by BP through the Strait of Hormuz, the British government said. They withdrew after warnings from a British warship.
“What happened was partially expected. We pointed out last week that Iran was likely to do something of the sort,” Petromatrix oil analyst Olivier Jakob said.
“They might have created a little bit of disturbance, but nothing came out of it. For now, we are in the process of intimidation and psychological warfare ... To have a strong price reaction you need something to really happen.”
Oil prices were also supported by a decline in US inventories. US crude stocks fell 9.5 million barrels in the week to July 5, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said, more than the 3.1 million-barrel draw analysts had expected as refineries ramped up output.
US oil producers on Wednesday also cut nearly a third of their output in the Gulf of Mexico ahead of what could be one of the first major storms of the Atlantic hurricane season.
Fifteen production platforms and four rigs were evacuated in the north central Gulf of Mexico, according to a US regulator, as oil firms moved workers to safety ahead of a storm expected to become a hurricane by Friday.
“There is nothing like an early start to the hurricane season to support oil prices, but looking under the hood of the EIA data, it paints an even rosier picture for US oil markets,” said Stephen Innes, managing partner, Vanguard Markets in Bangkok.
“Imports down, exports likely up and refinery utilization at yearly highs,” he said.
Stocks have now fallen for four consecutive weeks, according to the EIA.
US output is rising again after a brief drop from record levels, according to the EIA. Production last week rose to 12.3 million barrels a day.
“Rising US shale production levels, subdued global economic momentum and existing trade uncertainties will cap bullish gains for crude oil futures,” said Benjamin Lu, analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore.


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.