Leveraging a business is the appropriate manner in which to manage any enterprise. It provides the means in which to increase the return to the shareholders. However, in oil and gas leverage on the assets that represent the past spending orgies are not appropriate. The assets on the balance sheet have ballooned to unreasonable levels due to the SEC’s accounting methodologies. What may be an appropriate percentage of debt to take on in a business would be excessive levels of debt in an oil and gas producer due to the assets representing every cost being capitalized. Capital and operating costs in the field, overhead and interest costs leave very few costs left to pass through to the income statement. Reflecting high balances of assets and high profits. Yet never any cash. That always had to be provided from the investors each and every year.
This has gone on for four decades and many in the industry don’t understand why or how it’s wrong. They were brought into the industry on this basis and know nothing else. It’s just the way the business was run. Since President Elect Donald Trump was elected it is clear that people have stopped sitting on their hands in the United States and are looking to do some business. The fear of being penalized for existing under the Obama administration is about to stop. As a result market rates of interest are beginning to move substantially, anticipating the demand for capital in a growing economy. This is very good news except for those that may have been excessively leveraged due to bad accounting policies, and are suffering in a low commodity price environment. We have a high probability of normalized interest rates within one year.
Even if Opec will, or has, put together an agreement, these higher interest rates will cause the oil and gas producers difficulties to linger. They are in no position whatsoever to be taking on an increase in a major cost such as interest rates. I recall in the last downturn the oil and gas producers created large volumes of unsubordinated debt. That being the amount of interest that wasn’t able to be paid and as such the debtor turned the outstanding interest itself into a another debt obligation. Expect to see the term unsubordinated debt start to creep into the vocabulary of the oil and gas producer in 2017.
All of these costs, the capital costs that were incurred in the past. The debts that are still outstanding on those assets. The volumes of shareholders that an existing oil and gas producer has are impediments, legacy constraints to the current operations and their growth prospects. Producers will at best be frozen in time as a result of the manner in which the industry has been managed for the past four decades, the muddle along strategy and these cost structures. You can’t fool all of the people all of the time. And the oil and gas producers have been able to fool a lot of people for a long time. However, the investors and bankers are wise to the game and can read the outcome of the financial statements these producers are putting out. I still think there’ll be hell to pay when these producers continue to say they’re profitable at $45 but produce financial statements that show greater than $15 billion in losses. Is this a scam or are you really that lost?
A clean slate approach to the industry is the only solution. That is the startup organization. Buying properties off of the existing producers will be the way in which they are able to grow quickly and profitably. Buying at rock bottom prices due to the volume of properties on the marketplace and the desperate situation of the vendor. Keeping their debt and shareholders within reason, they will use profits to fuel the business. Providing the means to drive forward with the most profitable means of oil and gas operations and a healthy industry. Society will be relying on the startup oil and gas organizations to remediate the assets and turn the industry into the profitable industry it should be. It will be obvious during this time that not much will be done in terms of field operations to bring on new supply. But then the overproduction is the issue. Once the transfer of the assets from the old to the new is complete, then drilling can resume.
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