Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cheaper Oil, Less Money for UAE

It's simple maths. The cheaper a barrel of oil, the less money pours into the United Arab Emirates' coffers.

And as crude yo–yos around $100 there is roughly $124m less reaching the UAE on an average day compared to July when the price touched $147.27.
Since July the fallout from the credit crunch and threats of recession have seen a summer slide in prices, capped by recent turmoil in the US financial markets.
The economic slowdown, which has spread outside the United States and Europe and beyond, means that fundamentally people don't use as much of the black stuff as they once did.
The only saving grace has been the US government's proposed $700 billion bailout, which has eased fears that the world's largest economy was on the brink of collapse and raised expectations that the demand for oil could pick up.
Oil prices regained some poise this week on the back of the announcement after plummeting roughly 27 per cent since July.
The UAE is now left to assess the impact of the last two months' dramatic price fluctuations as it stares $100–a–barrel oil in the face.

Oil revenues
Despite the slump, UAE oil companies will still hit their target profits as they planned for double-digit oil prices.
On an average day in July the UAE earned roughly $390m from oil at $147 a barrel. If the same daily production levels were maintained in September – 2.66m barrels – oil income would have dropped to $266m per day.
That's a fall of $124m a day.
But Peter Barker–Homek, Chief Executive of the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (Taqa), said a drop in income should not be confused with a cut in expected profits.
He said: "Interestingly a low price per barrel does not necessarily mean low profitability – though it does mean lower turnover. The reason profitability may not suffer particularly is that service costs tend to track the price per barrel. Taqa bought in at a much lower price deck than $90 so we expect to continue having solid results."
At the start of September the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) lowered its forecast for 2009 world oil demand. But according to the International Monetary Fund the UAE's budget break–even price is $23 a barrel.

Economic growth
The UAE's economy will continue to expand but it will simply cost more to achieve the rampant growth which was achieved on the back of rocketing crude prices.
Word from the government is that the economy will remain in "good shape" even if oil retreats to $60 a barrel.
Henry Azzam, Middle East and North Africa CEO at Deutsche Bank, said: "The 50 per cent drop since July will have an impact on the nominal GDP but will not affect real economic growth as this only considers production levels which were set by the government at $40-something a barrel."
Oil price drops might actually do the UAE a favour given that the economy actually "overheated" in the first half of 2008, according to Merrill Lynch.
Inflation has been the nasty byproduct of hyper–growth. But the bank said it expected the emirates to face "headwinds from the global slowdown" which will cool the economy in the second half of the year – and this could have knock–on effects for food and house prices.

Like all airlines, UAE carriers will breathe a sigh of relief at news of cheaper oil – and some have passed cost savings on to passengers through reduced fares.
When oil peaked this summer Emirates President Tim Clark said the airline was paying $30m (Dh110m) more for fuel per week than it budgeted for. Fuel represented 43 per cent of Emirates' total costs, he said. But this is expected to drop well below 40 per cent with oil at about $100.
Emirates spent just over $10.2 billion on fuel last year – almost a third of total outgoings. The Dubai carrier revised ticket prices in the Middle East this month to around 20 destinations in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Abu Dhabi–based Etihad said its rising fuel bill now accounted for 40 per cent of total costs compared with 20 per cent in 2006.
"The price of aviation fuel may have receded from record highs earlier this year but it still remains a very significant cost for all airlines," a spokesman told Emirates Business.
Etihad launched an aggressive fuel hedging policy in 2007 to help protect itself from the menace of rising oil prices. The airline was 70 per cent hedged in 2007, is 82 cent hedged this year and 41 per cent hedged in 2009.
The spokesman added: "Like most airlines Etihad uses fuel surcharges. However even with these surcharges, Etihad is not able to recover fully the total increase in its fuel bill."

Builders were among the worst hit by the rising price of oil in the summer. The companies they bought materials from saw operational costs skyrocket.
Construction costs in the Gulf increased by 50 per cent in the first half of 2008 compared with a 30 per cent increase in 2007, according to Al Mazaya Holdings, a regional real estate developer.
Experts said the surge in oil prices, along with steep demand in the construction sector, had pushed costs higher."The main outcome of lower oil prices for the construction industry has been that transport costs have eased," said Shyam Bhatia, Chairman of Alam Steel.
He estimated that a typical UAE construction firm would have paid about Dh150,000 for fuel in July. But this would have dropped to roughly Dh110,000 in September, now that oil was around $100 a barrel.
UAE real estate developer Fakhruddin Properties said this week that cement prices have eased as oil demand dropped away in the last two months.
Research firm ProLeads says Gulf projects valued at $48.4bn are either on hold or have been cancelled. They include at least 88 projects in the UAE. "The majority of cancelled or on–hold projects in the region have been affected by material costs," said Sean Hearn, Sales and Marketing Manager at ProLeads.

The performance of UAE markets has loosely mimicked the decline in oil prices from the summer's high. Between July and September the Abu Dhabi and Dubai bourses have dropped by a fifth.
Over the last two months the Dubai Financial Market fell 26.4 per cent while the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange lost 22.6 per cent.
Deutsche Bank's Azzam said: "Investors, particularly in retail, look at oil as an indication of where things are heading. And a decline in oil prices has made them more bearish and makes them less enthusiastic about buying shares. The fall in oil price has had a negative impact on confidence levels in UAE markets."
Oil is one of a number of market triggers. The next big event is the company results season, which starts at the end of this month.

Petrol is subsidised in the UAE so motorists get a pretty good deal compared with other major oil–consuming countries, particularly in Europe and North America.
Petrol sells for Dh6.25 and Dh6.75 per gallon in Dubai depending on the grade. Prices have remained unchanged since September 1, 2005.
Enoc, Eppco and Emarat have cut the price of diesel six times since the beginning of August. Diesel currently sells at Dh16.25 per gallon at the pumps in Dubai. Petrol stations said they were forced to drastically increase diesel prices this summer as the price of oil closed in on $150 a barrel.
Adnoc, however, was able to keep prices frozen at Dh8.6 a gallon throughout the oil price spike because it produces diesel from its own crude at refineries in Abu Dhabi.
Petrol prices are fixed by the federal government, but as the cost of oil drops there will be pressure to reflect this at the pumps.

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