Rising prices show tighter supplies of cleaner fuel for global shipping

A worker walks past a ship at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah in Yemen. (Reuters)
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Updated 11 January 2020

Rising prices show tighter supplies of cleaner fuel for global shipping

NEW YORK: The price of very low-sulfur fuel oil has risen in recent months, a sign of increasing worry there is not enough of the fuel to comply with new global shipping laws that took effect this year, market participants said.
Very low-sulfur fuel oil (VLSFO) lately has started to trade at levels comparable to marine gasoil, a type of diesel fuel used by tankers. That is an indication that refineries may need to increase production of VLSFO as tankers shift from dirtier, high-sulfur fuel to a cleaner product to comply with International Maritime Organization regulations designed to reduce smog.
Under those rules, shippers either need to use fuels with a sulfur content not exceeding 0.5 percent, or install scrubbers that can clean higher-sulfur fuels to reduce emissions. The rules, known as IMO 2020, affect more than 50,000 merchant ships worldwide.
Supply has tightened in trading markets in Asia and Europe and now in the US. On Wednesday VLSFO in Houston traded at $642 per ton, compared with $667 per ton for marine gasoil, S&P Global Platts data showed. That $25 spread was at $152 half a year ago. That suggests not enough VLSFO is being produced and raises concerns about supply this coming spring when refiners go into maintenance season, said Rick Joswick, head of oil pricing and trade flow analytics at S&P Global Platts in New York.
The spread in Singapore has narrowed to $15, while in Rotterdam it has narrowed to $3, S&P Global Platts data showed.
Meanwhile, VLSFO stocks are also falling, Joswick said.
“You can’t cover demand out of inventory forever,” he said. “Production has to pick up and trade flows have to shift.”
“It means marine gasoil needs to be called upon to cover some of that demand,” Joswick added.
The spread between VLSFO and high-sulfur fuel used by shippers that installed scrubbers was $330 per ton in Singapore and $272 per ton in Houston, S&P Global Platts data showed. That spread was greater than shipowners expected, benefiting tanker operators that installed scrubbers, shipping sources said.
VLSFO demand could prompt refiners to increase supplies later this year, said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston. “This is a nice, high price for VLSFO. We’ll reach some new equilibrium,” he said.

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Scrubbers

Scrubbers are used to clean higher-sulfur fuels on ships to reduce emissions.


STC postpones its acquisition of Vodafone Egypt for second time

Updated 44 min 17 sec ago

STC postpones its acquisition of Vodafone Egypt for second time

  • Kingdom’s largest telecom company says it will need an additional two months to complete the deal

CAIRO: The Saudi Telecom Company (STC), the Kingdom’s largest telecom company, said that it will need an additional two months to complete a deal to purchase a 55 percent stake in Vodafone Egypt.

In January, STC was in agreement to buy the stake for $2.4 billion. In April, it extended the process for 90 days due to logistical challenges stemming from the spread of COVD-19. The company said in a statement that it would extend the period again to September for the same reason.

The Public Investment Fund, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, owns a majority stake in STC. The ownership of Vodafone Egypt is divided between 55 percent for Vodafone International, which is the target percentage of the Saudi purchase offer, 44.8 percent for Telecom Egypt, and the remaining 0.2 percent for small shareholders.

Telecom Egypt is awaiting the results of Vodafone’s evaluation of the final share price to announce its position on the deal. A Telecom Egypt official stated that the company is still awaiting STC’s position regarding the purchase of the share. If the deal is not completed, it may be presented with its rights to acquire Vodafone’s share, which would allow it to take over 99.8 percent of the company’s shares, leaving 0.2 percent for small investors.

Ashraf El-Wardany, an Egyptian communications expert, pointed out the importance of waiting until the procedures between STC and the Vodafone Group are complete. The results will determine the next steps by Telecom Egypt.

El-Wardany said that the Saudi operator must, after completing the relevant studies, submit a final binding offer at the share price and any conditions for purchase. If approved by Vodafone, it must submit the offer with the same conditions and price to Telecom Egypt, provided that the latter responds within a maximum period of 45 days to determine its position regarding the use of the right of pre-emption and the purchase, or lack thereof, of Vodafone’s share.

According to El-Wardany, there are other possible scenarios. Vodafone International may not be convinced of the offer or the conditions presented by the Saudi side and the sale may be withdrawn, or the Vodafone group may be ready to sell and has prepared another buyer for its stake in Egypt in the event of rejecting the Saudi offer. It may also it back away from the deal and continue to operate in Egypt for a few more years.

El-Wardany said that if Telecom Egypt decides not to use the right of pre-emption to acquire the remaining Vodafone shares for any reason, it will continue with its 44.8 percent stake.
It may also resort to selling all of its shares or part of it to the Saudi side or to any company that wants to acquire its stake.

“This raises the question of whether STC can acquire all of Vodafone’s shares,” El-Wardany said, adding that the coming months “will make the answer clear.”