Oman to double gas prices for industrial users
Oman to double gas prices for industrial users
The Omani government and some major industrial consumers have agreed that gas prices will rise from $ 1.5 per million British thermal units (mmbtu) in 2012 to $2/mmbtu in 2013, Darwish Al-Balushi said.
In 2014 prices will rise to $ 2.5, then hit $ 3 in 2015 with further rises expected in years beyond that, he said.
Gas-hungry industry has flourished in the Middle East on fuel priced at a fraction of international levels but its future growth is in doubt unless more sources can be developed.
Omani gas production has risen sharply over the last decade and the non-OPEC oil producer remains a net gas exporter. But rampant demand growth at home means it must tap trickier and more costly gas deposits to maintain exports of liquefied natural gas while satisfying its own gas needs.
Key to Oman's quest to boost production is the Khazzan project. Developer BP has been haggling with the government over how much it can sell any gas produced and the sales price increases announced for the next few years should help make BP's business case.
Rock-bottom gas prices prevalent in the Middle East are a remnant of when gas was a plentiful by-product of the region's oil fields and Saudi consumers still only pay $0.75/mmbtu.
According to industry estimates total upstream conventional gas production costs are around $3/mmbtu, but the cost of projects like BP's tight gas project are thought to be much higher.
Although some big gas users in the region fear that higher feedstock prices could harm their competitiveness, even Oman's plan to double prices by 2015 should not make Omani industry uncompetitive on the global market.
Thanks to an unmatched revolution in North American shale gas production, the price of gas for US industrial users tumbled from highs of around $ 13 per mmbtu in 2008 to a record low of about $ 3 per mmbtu in April 2012, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The slump in US prices has worried many petrochemical producers in the Gulf, but US prices have already rebounded and the EIA expects industrial consumers be paying over $5/mmbtu again in 2013, far more than Omani industry will have to pay by 2015.
Gulf companies challenged by debt and rising interest rates
- Debt restructurings on the rise, but below crisis levels
- Central Bank of the UAE has raised interest rates four times since last March
There has been an uptick in recent months in heavily-borrowed companies in the Gulf seeking to restructure their debts with lenders. Although the pressure on companies is not comparable to levels witnessed in the region following the 2008 global financial crisis, rising interest rates will eventually begin to have a greater impact, say experts.
Speaking exclusively to Arab news, Matthew Wilde, a partner at consultancy PwC in Dubai, said: “We do expect that interest rate increases will gradually start to impact companies over the next 12 months, but to date the impact of hedging and the runoff of older fixed rate deals has meant the impact is fairly muted so far.”
The Central Bank of the UAE has raised interest rates four times since the start of last year, in line with action taken by the US Federal Reserve. The Fed has signalled that it will raise interest rates at least twice more before the end of the year.
Wilde added that there had been a little more pressure on company balance sheets of late, although “this shouldn’t be overplayed”.
Nevertheless, just last week, Stanford Marine Group — majority owned by a fund managed by private equity firm Abraaj Group — was reported by the New York Times to be in talks with banks to restructure a $325 million Islamic loan. The newspaper cited a Reuters report that relied on “banking sources”.
The Dubai-based oil and gas services firm, which has struggled as a result of the downturn in the hydrocarbons market since 2014, has reportedly asked banks to consider extending the maturity of its debt and restructuring repayments, after it breached certain loan covenants.
A fund managed by Abraaj owns 51 percent of Stanford Marine, with the remaining stake held by Abu Dhabi-based investment firm Waha Capital. Abraaj declined to comment.
Dubai-based theme parks operator DXB Entertainments struck a deal last month with creditors to restructure 4.2 billion dirhams ($1.1 billion) of borrowings, with visitor numbers to attractions such as Legoland Dubai and Bollywood Parks Dubai struggling to meet visitor targets.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Sharjah-based Gulf General Investment Company was in talks with banks to restructure loan and credit facilities after defaulting on a payment linked to 2.1 billion dirhams of debt at the end of last year.
Dubai International Capital, according to a Bloomberg report from December, has restructured its debt for the second time, reaching an agreement with banks to roll over a loan of about $1 billion. At the height of the emirate’s boom years, DIC amassed assets worth about $13 billion, including the owner of London’s Madame Tussauds waxworks museum, as well as stakes in Sony and Daimler. The firm was later forced to sell most of these assets and reschedule $2.5 billion of debt after the global financial crisis.
Wilde told Arab News: “We have seen an increasing number of listed companies restructuring or planning to restructure their capital recently — including using tools such as capital reductions and raising capital by using quasi equity instruments such as perpetual bonds.”
This has happened across the region and PwC expected this to accelerate a little as companies “respond to legislative pressures and become more familiar with the options available to fix their problems,” said Wilde.
He added that the trend was being driven by oil prices remaining below historical highs, soft economic conditions, and continued caution in the UAE’s banking sector.
On the debt restructuring side, Wilde said there had been a “reasonably steady flow of cases of debts being restructured”.
However, the volume of firms seeking to renegotiate debt remains small compared to the level of restructurings witnessed in the aftermath of Dubai’s debt crisis.
Several big name firms in the emirate were caught out by the onset of the global financial crisis, which saw the emirate’s booming economy and real estate market go into reverse.
State-owned conglomerate Dubai World, whose companies included real-estate firm Nakheel and ports operator DP World, stunned global markets in November 2009 when it asked creditors for a six-month standstill on its obligations. Dubai World restructured around $25 billion of debt in 2011, followed by a $15 billion restructuring deal in 2015.
“We would not expect it to become (comparable to 2008-9) so barring some form of sharp external impetus such as global political instability or a protectionist trade war,” said Wilde.
Nor did he see the introduction of VAT as particularly driving this trend, but rather as just one more factor impacting some already strained sectors (e.g. some sub sectors of retail) “which were already pressured by other macro factors.”