Exxon eyes UK North Sea exit after 50-year presence

Exxon is planning to focus on its shale projects in the US. (File/Shutterstock)
Updated 13 August 2019

Exxon eyes UK North Sea exit after 50-year presence

  • Exxon has held talks with a number of North Sea operators to gauge interest in some or all of its assets
  • Leaving the British North Sea would mark a major retreat from Europe

LONDON: Exxon Mobil is considering an exit from the British North Sea after more than 50 years in the oil and gas basin as it focuses on US shale production and new projects.
The world’s largest publicly traded energy company, Exxon has held talks with a number of North Sea operators in recent weeks to gauge interest in some or all of its assets, which could fetch up to $2 billion, according to three industry sources with knowledge of the matter.
Exxon declined to comment.
Leaving the British North Sea would mark a major retreat from Europe for Irving, Texas headquartered Exxon, which has already put its Norwegian offshore assets on the block.
It would follow similar moves by US rivals Chevron and ConocoPhillips which earlier this year sold the bulk of their North Sea operations.
Exxon’s operations are managed through a 50-50 joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell, known as Esso Exploration and Production UK, and include interests in nearly 40 oil and gas fields.
Shell declined to comment.
Exxon produces around 80,000 barrels of oil and 441 million cubic feet of gas a day in the British North Sea, according to its website.
Potential buyers could include large private equity-backed North Sea producers such as Chrysaor or Neptune which have acquired portfolios from veteran producers in recent years.
Should the direct discussions with potential buyers not yield a result, Exxon will consider appointing an external bank to run a formal sale process, two of the sources added.
Esso has been producing gas since 1968 and oil since 1976 including from the Brent field, which is eponymous with the global crude benchmark.
Exxon’s operational focal point in recent years has turned to the United States, where it is rapidly ramping up oil production in the Permian Basin, as well as in Guyana, where it is developing huge, untapped fields.


Economists fear a US recession in 2021

Updated 19 August 2019

Economists fear a US recession in 2021

  • Trump’s higher budget deficits ‘might dampen the economy’

WASHINGTON: A number of US business economists appear sufficiently concerned about the risks of some of President Donald Trump’s economic policies that they expect a recession in the US by the end of 2021.

Thirty-four percent of economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics, in a report being released Monday, said they believe a slowing economy will tip into recession in 2021. 

That’s up from 25 percent in a survey taken in February. Only 2 percent of those polled expect a recession to begin this year, while 38 percent predict that it will occur in 2020.

Trump, however, has dismissed concerns about a recession, offering an optimistic outlook for the economy after last week’s steep drop in the financial markets and saying on Sunday, “I don’t think we’re having a recession.” A strong economy is key to the Republican president’s 2020 reelection prospects.

The economists have previously expressed concern that Trump’s tariffs and higher budget deficits could eventually dampen the economy.

The Trump administration has imposed tariffs on goods from many key US trading partners, from China and Europe to Mexico and Canada. 

Officials maintain that the tariffs, which are taxes on imports, will help the administration gain more favorable terms of trade. But US trading partners have simply retaliated with tariffs of their own.

Trade between the US and China, the two biggest global economies, has plunged. Trump decided last Wednesday to postpone until Dec. 15 tariffs on about 60 percent of an additional $300 billion of Chinese imports, granting a reprieve from a planned move that would have extended duties to nearly everything the US buys from China.

The financial markets last week signaled the possibility of a US recession, adding to concerns over the ongoing trade tensions and word from Britain and Germany that their economies are shrinking.

The economists surveyed by the NABE were skeptical about prospects for success of the latest round of US-China trade negotiations. Only 5 percent predicted that a comprehensive trade deal would result, 64 percent suggested a superficial agreement was possible and nearly 25 percent expected nothing to be agreed upon by the two countries.

The 226 respondents, who work mainly for corporations and trade associations, were surveyed between July 14 and Aug. 1. That was before the White House announced 10 percent tariffs on the additional $300 billion of Chinese imports, the Chinese currency dipped below the seven-yuan-to-$1 level for the first time in 11 years and the Trump administration formally labeled China a currency manipulator.

As a whole, the business economists’ recent responses have represented a rebuke of the Trump administration’s overall approach to the economy.

Still, for now, most economic signs appear solid. Employers are adding jobs at a steady pace, the unemployment rate remains near a 50-year low and consumers are optimistic. US retail sales figures out last Thursday showed that they jumped in July by the most in four months.