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Factbox-Australia’s Woodside, Santos in talks for $53 billion oil-gas merger

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Factbox-Australia's Woodside, Santos in talks for $53 billion oil-gas merger
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: View of a model of carbon capture and storage designed by Santos Ltd, at the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association conference in Brisbane, Australia May 18, 2022. REUTERS/Sonali Paul/File Photo/File Photo

(Reuters) – Australia energy companies Woodside (OTC:) and Santos Ltd said late on Thursday that they are in preliminary merger talks, in what could be the latest big deal in a wave of global consolidation the in oil and gas sector.

A potential combination of the companies, which together have a market value of about $52 billion, comes amid challenges faced by both in their domestic projects from Indigenous people as well as rising pressures of decarbonisation.

Both companies have seen their share performance lag global peers.

CHALLENGS

Woodside in October cut its its 2023 production outlook and missed third-quarter revenue estimates, while it was ordered by the Australian federal court to seek new approval to conduct seismic blasting under the seabed for its $12 billion Scarborough gas project after a legal challenge by an Indigenous woman.

Santos is contending with legal challenges from a traditional land owner from the Tiwi Islands on undersea pipeline works for its $3.6 billion Barossa gas project and has forecast lower output in 2024 as its Bayu-Undan gas field reached the end of its life and its West Australian offshore field’s output declined.

Below are key details on both companies, including production and reserves measured in million barrels of oil equivalent (mmboe):

Woodside Santos

Market cap ($ in billion) 37.39 15.56

Revenue ($ in billion)

16.9 7.8

2022

Production (mmboe) Domestic 136.6 61.3

International 21.1 41.9

Total 157.7 103.2

Proved plus probable reserves (mmboe) 3,640.3 1,745

2023-24

Production forecasts (mmboe)

183-188 (2023) 84-90 (2024)

ASSETS AND PROJECTS

Woodside

Woodside operates major liquefied (LNG) export facilities in Australia, including North West Shelf and Pluto LNG, and three floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) facilities in western Australia. The company also owns a stake in the Chevron-operated Wheatstone LNG project.

The company is involved in oil-gas joint ventures in the Bass strait and partners with Santos at Macedon, a gas field off western Australia. Woodside has been trying to sell ageing domestic oil and gas assets where production is declining and high decomissioning costs are required.

The company received approval for its Scarborough and Pluto Train 2 projects in Australia in 2021, with first LNG cargo expected in 2026.

Globally, Woodside operates in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico with three offshore platforms, as well as an offshore processing facility in Trinidad and Tobago.

In Senegal, Woodside is targeting first oil production at the Sangomar Field Development Phase 1 in 2024. Woodside has also made a final investment decision to develop the large, high-quality Trion resource in Mexico, with first oil output targeted for 2028.

Other Woodside projects include proposed hydrogen and ammonia projects H2Perth and H2TAS in Australia and another hydrogen project, H2OK, in North America.

Santos

Santos operates Gladstone LNG and holds a stake in Papua New Guinea LNG.

The company expects production at the Timor-Leste Bayu-Undan field to cease in 2025 and plans to backfill Darwin LNG with supply from the Barossa field.

Santos is the second-biggest producer of domestic gas in Western Australia and has invested in two offshore oil fields, Van Gogh and Pyrenees.

On the Australian east coast, Santos portfolio includes the Cooper and Eromanga Basins as well eastern Queensland production.

In the U.S., Santos is advancing its Pikka Phase 1 project in Alaska, expecting first oil production in 2026.

Combined

If the companies merge, they would have a 26% share of Australia’s east coast gas market.

Combined oil and gas production in 2022 for the two totaled slightly over 260 million barrels of oil equivalent (mmboe), and their total proven plus probable reserves are 5.39 billion mmboe, based on data from the companies.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said on Thursday it would consider whether a public merger review into the impact on competition was required if the deal goes ahead.

“Given ACCC’s focus on East Coast gas, we expect a (merged company) may be a forced seller of the Cooper Basin,” Macquarie bank analyst Mark Wiseman said in a note.

($1 = 1.5154 Australian dollars)

Commodities

Gold prices muted as rate fears keep traders to the sidelines

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Gold prices muted as rate fears keep traders to the sidelines
© Reuters.

Investing.com– Gold prices moved in a flat-to-low range on Wednesday, extending their recent run of muted performance as anxiety over higher-for-longer U.S. interest rates persisted ahead of key economic readings.

The yellow metal remained squarely within a $2,000 to $2,050 trading range established over the past month, as any upside in gold was largely limited by a string of Federal Reserve warnings that the bank was in no hurry to begin trimming rates early in 2024. Strength in the , which remained near three-month highs, also pressured gold prices.

Still, gold prices also remained firm above the key $2,000 an ounce support level, indicating that fears of a global economic slowdown and geopolitical tensions in Russia and the Middle East were feeding some safe haven demand for the yellow metal.

steadied at $2,030.69 an ounce, while expiring in April fell 0.2% to $2,039.45 an ounce by 00:20 ET (05:20 GMT). 

PCE inflation, GDP data awaited for more cues

Markets were now awaiting key inflation and economic growth readings for more trading cues.

data- the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge- is due on Thursday, and is expected to show inflation remained sticky in January. Such a scenario gives the Fed more impetus to keep interest rates higher for longer.

Several Fed officials also warned this week that sticky inflation will keep the Fed from lowering interest rates early in 2024. 

Before the inflation data, a second reading on fourth-quarter is due later on Wednesday, and is expected to show some cooling in economic growth.

But the U.S. economy is still expected to remain well ahead of its developed world peers, giving the Fed enough headroom to keep rates higher for longer. 

Higher rates herald more pressure on gold, given that they increase the opportunity cost of buying bullion. Other precious metals also retreated on this notion, with falling 0.5% to $892.05 an ounce, while fell 0.7% to $22.602 an ounce on Wednesday. 

Copper prices dip, China PMIs awaited      

Among industrial metals, expiring in March fell 0.4% to $3.8390 a pound. 

The red metal saw a strong run-up in recent weeks on optimism over more stimulus measures in top importer China.

But this rally will be tested on Friday with the release of closely-watched data from the country, which is expected to provide more cues on the state of business activity through February. 

Readings for January showed little improvement in the economy.

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Commodities

Oil rises more than $1/bbl as OPEC+ mulls extending output cuts

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Oil rises more than $1/bbl as OPEC+ mulls extending output cuts
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Oil rig pumpjacks, also known as thirsty birds, extract crude from the Wilmington Field oil deposits area near Long Beach, California July 30, 2013. REUTERS/David McNew//File Photo

By Arathy Somasekhar

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Oil prices rose more than $1 a barrel on Tuesday as sources said OPEC+ is considering extending voluntary oil output cuts into the second quarter to provide additional support.

futures rose $1.12, or 1.4%, to $83.65 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures (WTI) were up $1.29, or 1.7%, at $78.87.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies led by Russia, known as OPEC+, agreed in November to voluntary cuts totalling about 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd) for the first quarter this year, led by Saudi Arabia rolling over its own voluntary cut.

The producer group could keep the additional cuts in place until the end of the year, two of the sources told Reuters.

“We are going to see some tight supplies down the road,” said Dennis Kissler, senior vice president of trading at BOK Financial.

“OPEC is looking for mid-$80s, may be around $85 a barrel on Brent. If we stay below that, they will curtail production all the way to the year end,” Kissler added.

Also supporting prices on the supply side, Israel and Hamas, as well as Qatari mediators, all sounded notes of caution about progress towards a truce in Gaza, after U.S. President Joe Biden said he believed a ceasefire could be reached in under a week to halt the war for Ramadan.

Yemen’s Houthi spokesperson said the group’s operations in the Red Sea would stop only when Israeli “aggression” against Gaza ends. Houthi missile and drone attacks on international shipping have driven up the cost of transporting energy products and contributed to a tighter market.

In the U.S., crude inventories were expected to have risen about 2.7 million barrels last week, while distillates and gasoline stockpiles were seen falling, a Reuters poll showed.

The American Petroleum Institute will release the industry group’s weekly inventories data at 4:30 p.m. EST (2130 GMT), followed by the government’s report on Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, the 3-2-1 U.S. refinery crack spread , a proxy for refining margins, rose to their highest in more than five months. The surge suggests increased profitability for refineries amidst robust consumer demand for petroleum products.

Markets expect to see some improvement in Chinese oil demand as improving travel demand over the Lunar New Year holiday outweighed worries of slowing macro-economic indicators.

Russian authorities announced a six-month ban on gasoline exports from March 1 to compensate for rising demand and to allow for refinery maintenance.

Global crude oil markets were expected to be fairly stable this year at around $80 a barrel, Russel Hardy, CEO of oil and gas trader Vitol, said.

Speaking at the Energy Institute conference, Hardy also said global oil demand was expected to peak in the early 2030s.

Both oil benchmarks had settled more than 1% higher on Monday after declines of 2-3% over the previous week as markets factored in a greater likelihood that cuts to interest rates might take longer to come than previously expected.

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Commodities

Oil falls 1% on Fed rate cut caution and stocks build

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Oil falls 1% on Fed rate cut caution and stocks build
© Reuters. Oil, miniatures of oil barrels and U.S. dollar banknote are seen in this illustration taken, June 6, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Files

By Paul Carsten

LONDON (Reuters) -Oil prices pulled back on Wednesday as the prospect of delays to U.S. interest rate cuts and a jump in stocks that trounced expectations offset a boost from a potential extension to OPEC+ supply curbs.

futures fell 76 cents, or 0.91%, to $82.89 a barrel by 1227 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures (WTI) were down 83 cents, or 1.05%, at $78.04. Both benchmarks had fallen $1 in earlier trading.

Vandana Hari, founder of oil market analysis provider Vanda (NASDAQ:) Insights, attributed the price falls to profit-taking plus a combined response to a surge in U.S. crude stocks and continuing hopes of a Gaza ceasefire deal in coming days.

U.S. crude stocks showed an 8.43 million barrel build in the week ended Feb. 23, according to market sources citing American Petroleum Institute (API) figures on Tuesday. 

That shattered expectations of a 1.8 million barrel build, according to analysts polled by Reuters on Monday.

Federal Reserve Governor Michelle Bowman had signalled on Tuesday that she was in no rush to cut U.S. interest rates, particularly given continuing inflation risks. Higher-for-longer rates could dampen economic growth and suppress demand for oil.

Due Thursday is the January U.S. personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation and a key factor in rate decisions.

“The power of inflationary expectations must not be underestimated,” said Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM in a note on Wednesday. “In case tomorrow’s U.S. PCE reading comes in above expectations, a temporary top might have been found” for oil.

Brent and WTI futures rose more than $1 a barrel on Tuesday after Reuters reported that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies led by Russia (OPEC+) will consider extending voluntary oil output cuts into the second quarter. 

Analysts at ANZ Research said that such a move by OPEC+ would be likely to tighten the market.

Russian authorities on Tuesday announced a six-month ban on gasoline exports from March 1 to compensate for rising demand from consumers and farmers and to allow for planned refinery maintenance.

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