Petrofac flags challenges in Saudi Arabia and Iraq

The company has not revealed what are the challenges it is facing in Saudi Arabia and Iraq. (File/AFP)
Updated 25 June 2019

Petrofac flags challenges in Saudi Arabia and Iraq

  • Britain is probing allegations of bribery against Petrofac Ltd.
  • A previous executive pleaded guilty to 11 counts of bribery

British oilfield services provider Petrofac Ltd. said on Tuesday that it has booked $1.7 billion in new orders so far this year even as it faced challenges in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, which has crimped its business.
Petrofac for the last two years has been navigating legal challenges as Britain probes allegations of bribery at the company. But the company has managed to sign multiple contracts and sell some assets to beef-up its core business.
In February, a former senior executive pleaded guilty to 11 counts of bribery in relation to oil deals in Iraq and Saudi Arabia as part of an investigation brought on by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
While the company has not been charged on any accounts, the convicting of former executives and top bosses being called for inquiries have hammered Petrofac shares. They lost nearly half of their value since the SFO first began its investigations into the company in May 2017 as part of a wider probe into Monaco-based oil and gas consultancy Unaoil on suspected bribery, corruption and money laundering.
Petrofac did not provide an update on the investigation on Tuesday and the company’s shares were down 2% in early dealings.
“We continue to maintain excellent client relationships in all of our markets, although new order intake in the year to date reflects our recent challenges in Saudi Arabia and Iraq,” it said.
Petrofac did not provide additional information on the challenges that it is facing in those regions.
The company also said trading was in line with expectations and it was well-positioned for the second half with good revenue visibility and high levels of tendering activity.

S&P 500 inches closer to record high

Updated 12 August 2020

S&P 500 inches closer to record high

  • US stock market index returns to levels last seen before the onset of coronavirus crisis

NEW YORK: The S&P 500 on Tuesday closed in on its February record high, returning to levels last seen before the onset of the coronavirus crisis that caused one of Wall Street’s most dramatic crashes in history.

The benchmark index was about half a percent below its peak hit on Feb. 19, when investors started dumping shares in anticipation of what proved to be the biggest slump in the US economy since the Great Depression.

Ultra-low interest rates, trillions of dollars in stimulus and, more recently, a better-than-feared second quarter earnings season have allowed all three of Wall Street’s main indexes to recover.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq has led the charge, boosted by “stay-at-home winners” Inc., Netflix Inc. and Apple Inc. The index was down about 0.4 percent.

The blue chip Dow surged 1.2 percent, coming within 5 percent of its February peak.

“You’ve got to admit that this is a market that wants to go up, despite tensions between US-China, despite news of the coronavirus not being particularly encouraging,” said Andrea Cicione, a strategist at TS Lombard.

“We’re facing an emergency from the health, economy and employment point of view — the outlook is a lot less rosy. There’s a disconnect between valuation and the actual outlook even though lower rates to some degree justify high valuation.”

Aiding sentiment, President Vladimir Putin claimed Russia had become the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine. But the approval’s speed has concerned some experts as the vaccine still must complete final trials.

Investors are now hoping Republicans and Democrats will resolve their differences and agree on another relief program to support about 30 million unemployed Americans, as the battle with the virus outbreak was far from over with US cases surpassing 5 million last week.

Also in focus are Sino-US tensions ahead of high-stakes trade talks in the coming weekend.

“Certainly the rhetoric from Washington has been negative with regards to China ... there’s plenty of things to worry about, but markets are really focused more on the very easy fiscal and monetary policies at this point,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

Financials, energy and industrial sectors, that have lagged the benchmark index this year, provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500 on Tuesday.

The S&P 500 was set to rise for the eighth straight session, its longest streak of gains since April 2019.

The S&P 500 was up 15.39 points, or 0.46 percent, at 3,375.86, about 18 points shy of its high of 3,393.52. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 341.41 points, or 1.23 percent, at 28,132.85, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 48.37 points, or 0.44 percent, at 10,919.99.

Royal Caribbean Group jumped 4.6 percent after it hinted at new safety measures aimed at getting sailing going again after months of cancellations. Peers Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. and Carnival Corp. also rose.

US mall owner Simon Property Group Inc. gained 4.1 percent despite posting a disappointing second quarter profit, as its CEO expressed some hope over a recovery in retail as lockdown measures in some regions eased.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 3.44-to-1 on the NYSE and 1.44-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 35 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 50 new highs and four new lows.