Low and fluctuating oil prices and the rise of US gas production has implications for finance professionals working in the gas sector
Demand and supply
From a buyer’s perspective, gas has probably never been more attractive. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices have dropped significantly, in line with the oil prices. And the supply of gas available for international shipment is rising, which will clearly also have an impact on prices.
"The US’s arrival as an exporter of LNG will be a game changer for the global gas sector,’ "
Philippe Berterottière, chairman and CEO of GTT, a French LNG engineering company.
For sellers, gas is a long-term option. More complex than oil, wells cannot be as easily turned on or off according to the current price. Also, infrastructure has to be built to store and transport gas, whereas oil can go straight into barrels. Furthermore, gas prices vary more by region compared to oil.
It is therefore a less attractive short-term investment and the low prices are causing a move away from investing in unproven assets and towards those that can provide a more reliable return. Companies are still looking at replacing reserves, but mostly seek quality assets that will become commercially viable relatively quickly.
Changing roles for finance professionals
· Pricing: Increased price pressure creates challenges for finance professionals. Accountants will have a key role to play as existing contracts are renegotiated and new contracts are drawn up.
· Merger and acquisition opportunities: The challenging pricing environment heightens risk of bankruptcy particularly for smaller or mid-sized players, and the potential for M&A opportunities at attractive acquisition levels.
· Costs: Investors may be more cautious about investing in high-capital-expenditure gas projects until the price of oil rebounds sufficiently. Successful financial planning is key for finding the required funding.
· Sustainability: Greater use of Integrated Reporting allows companies to report not just on short-term performance data, but also on mid- and long-term value creation. It gives oil and gas companies opportunities for displaying to shareholders their sustainability efforts, including the long-term implications of a move to cleaner fuel sources such as gas.