LONDON — Oil and gas majors are likely to report bumper second-quarter earnings in the coming days, energy analysts have told CNBC, following a brutal 12 months by virtually every measure.
The expected upswing would build on a surprisingly strong showing in the first quarter and lend further support to the oil and gas industry’s efforts to pay down debt and reward investors.
“Big Oil” companies, referring to the world’s largest oil and gas majors, still face significant challenges and uncertainties, however.
These include the remarkable success of shareholder activism in recent months, a “tremendous degree” of ongoing investor skepticism and intensifying pressure to massively reduce fossil fuel use in order to meet the demands of the climate emergency.
“Europe’s integrated oil sector already enjoyed surprisingly strong earnings in 1Q, but 2Q is set to show further improvement as commodity prices took another step up,” analysts at Morgan Stanley said in a research note.
International benchmark Brent crude futures rose to an average of $69 a barrel in the second quarter, the Wall Street bank said, up from an average of $61 in the first three months of the year. The oil contract was last seen trading at around $73.57.
Oil companies that ignore climate in their earnings calls will be seen as laggards. Long-term investors will conclude they are financially risky.Kathy HippleFinance professor at Bard College
Analysts at Morgan Stanley noted that energy major share prices continue to be anchored by their dividend distributions. Notwithstanding substantial increases to free cash flow forecasts, the bank said Big Oil dividend expectations remain “rather static.”
“The energy transition confronts investors with much uncertainty, and the sector’s capital allocation track record has been mixed at best over the last decade. Hence, investors are only valuing the cash flow paid to them, with little credit given for cash flow retained within companies,” they said.
“As the dividend outlook has not improved much, and dividend yields in aggregate are already low by historical standards, share prices have trailed the earnings outlook considerably.”
In Europe, Royal Dutch Shell and TotalEnergies will report second-quarter earnings on July 29, with BP scheduled to follow on Aug. 3. Stateside, ExxonMobil and Chevron are expected to publish their latest figures on July 30, while ConocoPhillips will report second-quarter earnings on Aug. 3.
Rene Santos, manager for North America supply at S&P Global Platts Analytics, told CNBC via email that he expects second-quarter earnings from U.S.-based energy companies to be “significantly higher” when compared to the same period in 2020.
This is “mainly due to much higher oil prices,” he added. “In addition, the majors, large and mid-cap companies have kept capital discipline and have continued to focus on paying down debt and increasing free cash flow instead of increasing activity [drilling and completion] despite higher oil prices.”
Santos said S&P Global Platts Analytics also foresee an increase in the reporting of ESG activity, noting that it “looks like pressure from environmental groups and fear of more regulations from the current administration is persuading many companies to do more to decrease emissions.”
Growing climate risk
The oil and gas industry was sent into a tailspin last year as the coronavirus pandemic coincided with a historic fuel demand shock, plunging commodity prices, unprecedented write-downs and tens of thousands of job cuts. The torrent of bad news prompted the head of the International Energy Agency to suggest it may come to represent the worst year in the history of oil markets.
Oil prices have since rebounded to multi-year highs and all three of the world’s main forecasting agencies — OPEC, the IEA and the U.S. Energy Information Administration — now expect a demand-led recovery to pick up speed in the second half of 2021.
Clark Williams-Derry, energy finance analyst at IEEFA, a non-profit organization, said he expects oil and gas companies to try to claim a clean bill of health after a bumper second quarter. “That’s the mantra that we will hear,” he told CNBC via telephone.
However, while energy majors will likely have had the opportunity to pay down some debt after generating a significant chunk of cash from their operations, Williams-Derry said that this hides the fact that these companies have not invested much in future production.
“What I think the market is starting to signal is that it kind of likes when the oil companies shrink and aren’t going all out into new production but they are using the cash that their operations are generating to pay down debt and reward investors.”
Longer term, Williams-Derry warned there’s a “tremendous degree” of investor skepticism about the business models of oil and gas firms, citing the deepening climate crisis and the urgent need to pivot away from fossil fuels.
“We saw earlier in the year signs of a sea change in investor thinking about, frankly, the legal status of some of the supermajors,” he said, referring to a series of landmark courtroom and boardroom defeats for the likes of Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron.
“So, even if you are riding high for a quarter or two when prices are high, the reality is still that stock prices are way below the market as a whole and there’s just not the investor enthusiasm for the old business model that I think these companies probably expected to see,” he said.
Kathy Hipple, finance professor at Bard College in New York, told CNBC via email that she believes two key themes are likely to emerge this earnings season: Addressing investor concerns around climate risk and the outlining of new business models to survive a pivot toward renewables.
“Investors are future-oriented and will look past a short-term pop in earnings compared to last year’s dismal second-quarter results,” Hipple said. “They want to see concrete business strategies that acknowledge the energy transition that is gathering speed.”
She argued it was important to note that these earnings will be announced “against a backdrop of climate disasters around the globe,” from extreme heat in the Pacific Northwest to flooding in Europe and China.
“Oil companies that ignore climate in their earnings calls will be seen as laggards. Long-term investors will conclude they are financially risky,” Hipple said.
Teledriving mobility service Vay to remotely deliver EVs in Vegas as it expands to US
Europe’s first teledriving (remotely driving) service is entering the US market and intends to setup shop in Sin City to begin. Vay is establishing its new US headquarters in downtown Las Vegas, where it will begin testing its teledriving service by dropping off and picking up rental EVs to customers around the city.
Vay is a German teledriving specialist based in Berlin that has taken a remote-first approach to driverless vehicles in which an operator drives a given EV from a dedicated hub. Vay is aiming to gradually introduce more autonomous driving functions in its system as they become more safe and are permitted to do so.
For now, however, the service relies on teledrivers, whose immediate focus is on the driverless transportation of rental EVs to customers. Those customers can then hop in the EV, drive off and then park whenever they are done, enabling Vay to step back in and remotely drive the vehicle back to base.
After operating a vehicle in Hamburg this past February, Vay declared itself the first and only company to drive a car on European public roads with no one inside. We’ve personally experienced this same approach to rideshare mobility in Las Vegas when we went for a ride with Halo.Car.
With its sights now set on the US, Vay will have to compete with Halo.Car in Vegas – the home of its new headquarters.
Vay to compete in growing driverless EV market in Vegas
Following its plans for expanded certification to operate driverless vehicles in Europe, Vay shared details of its expansion to the US, beginning in Las Vegas. The US entity will be lead by general manager Caleb Varner, who joined Vay in late 2022 after leaving Uber where he was director, global general manager, and co-founder of Uber Rent & Valet. Varner spoke:
I am excited to be a part of Vay and launch our service in the US. Vay’s teledriving technology and innovative approach has the potential to reshape the way people move – not only is that a huge business opportunity, but also a service that we see missing from today’s transportation ecosystem. The broader team at Vay is excited about taking this german-born technology and using it to change the way Americans move and building a future with reduced personal car ownership.
To begin, Varner will work closely with Vay cofounder and CEO Thomas von der Ohe to implement Vay’s teledriving technology in the US market that supports the launch of its own remotely driven mobility service. Von der Ohe also spoke to Vay’s new home in Vegas as a kickoff in the US:
We are excited to enter the US mobility market. Our team is talking to stakeholders in various states and has started to work on launching an initial service. The market is ready and the responses we have received so far from regulators, city governments, and potential customers in the US show that it’s a very dynamic market that we will be exploring in the near future!
Like Europe, the approach will begin with remote deliveries of rental EVs around Vegas, but certain permits and certifications are required. Luckily, Vay has the support of Las Vegas’ International Innovation Center, located in the downtown Arts District. Vay’s new headquarters sits within this office which remains part of an investment in economic development in the city.
I guess I will have to go to Vegas and take a test ride in one of Vay’s driverless cars. Twist my arm!
Here’s where Toyota’s first US-made EV, an electric 3-row SUV, will be built
Toyota’s largest plant globally is going electric. The company revealed Wednesday it would assemble its new three-row electric SUV at its Georgetown, Kentucky, facility starting in 2025. The new SUV will be Toyota’s first US-assembled EV as the market continues to surpass expectations.
Toyota’s first US-assembled EV will be in Kentucky
“Toyota Kentucky set the standard for Toyota vehicle manufacturing in the US and now we’re leading the charge with BEVs,” Susan Elkington, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, explained.
The Toyota Kentucky plant is the company’s largest manufacturing facility globally, with the capability to produce 550,000 vehicles annually, and will now lead Toyota’s vehicle carbon reduction efforts in the US.
Toyota says the batteries for its three-row electric SUV will come from the company’s new battery factory in North Carolina. The plant was initially revealed in late 2021. Today’s announcement from Toyota reveals the plant will receive an additional $2.1 billion investment, bringing the total to nearly $6 billion.
Sean Suggs, president of Toyota Battery Manufacturing at the North Carolina facility, commented on the new funding, saying:
With this proactive infrastructure investment, we will be able to quickly support future expansion opportunities to meet growing customer need.
The NC plant will produce lithium-ion batteries with six production lines (four for hybrids and only two for EVs).
The Governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear, said through a $591 million investment for future projects in Scott County, Toyota is committed to retaining 700 full-time jobs.
Although Toyota didn’t reveal any new details of its first US-assembled EV coming in 2025, we know it will be a three-row electric SUV as part of ten new electric cars planned to launch globally.
Toyota aims to sell 1.5 million EVs globally with the new models by 2026 as it looks to keep pace in the rapidly expanding electric car market.
Apart from the company’s first global EV, the bZ4X, Toyota has released an electric sedan, the bZ3, in China and teased upcoming models, including a sport crossover and family SUV.
Since passing last August, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has attracted well over $100 billion in private-sector investment in EVs, batteries, and manufacturing. Toyota is one of many automakers and suppliers that have revealed plans to build on US soil.
That being said, with its first US-assembled EV arriving in 2025, will it still be too little too late for the automaker?
Either way, Toyota is doing what it should have done years ago. It’s building its EV supply chain capabilities with battery factories while retooling manufacturing facilities. In addition, Toyota is developing a dedicated EV platform that will help streamline production and double the range of future electric models with more efficient batteries, according to the company.
With the latest slew of announcements from Toyota, the company is noticeably accelerating the pace of EV development. Perhaps, after watching EV makers like Tesla and BYD steal market share, Toyota is looking toward the future rather than the past.
Former footballer Drogba is E1’s newest team owner ahead of first electric boat racing season
The UIM E1 World Championship electric boat racing league has found its latest team as it prepares to launch its inaugural season later this year. Former Chelsea and Ivory Coast footballer Didier Drogba and his partner Gabrielle LeMaire have signed on as owners of the fourth E1 racing team to join the growing league.
The UIM E1 World Championship is a nascent electric boat racing league created by Formula E and Extreme E founder, Alejandro Agag, and Rodi Basso – a former director of Motorsport at McLaren with a background in Formula 1 engineering.
We’ve been following the new sport’s progress for over a year as it has evolved from testing its all-electric RaceBird boats, to a growing league of teams led by some familiar names. Venice emerged as the inaugural E1 race team in April of 2022, and was soon followed by team Mexico owned by Formula 1 driver Sergio Perez.
Early this year, we shared news that tennis great Rafael Nadal had signed on as E1’s next team owner, bringing his native Spain into the fold to compete on the water. As the young championship series continues to develop (and tries) to fill all ten of its initial team slots this year, it has found its latest team owner in soccer (or football) legend Didier Drogba.
Team Drogba joins E1 donning the Ivory Coast flag
E1 announced the addition of Team Drogba to the UIM Championship this morning, which will be co-owned and managed with the footballer’s partner, Gabrielle LeMaire – a successful businesswoman and marketing expert. E1 cofounder and CEO Rodi Basso spoke about what the new Team Drogba owners bring to the league:
This team is so exciting for the E1 Series, blending diversity, inclusion and sustainability with a fire to compete and win. They are a dynamic duo that show how important it is to have equal representation and opportunities for men and women in motorsport, from the boardroom to the cockpit. And their commitment to ocean health and technological change will help take E1’s message further and wider. It’s exciting to see the fleet take shape and there’s more big announcements in the pipeline.
Similar to his new rival “Rafa” Nadal, Drogba’s foundation supports sustainable developments outside of the competitive arenas to make a positive impact on the planet. The former footballer and his partner also help provide a positive impact on the lives of African children living in poverty.
Together, the new E1 owners hope Team Drogba can help the new E1 series reach a global audience and inspire it to join the race to create a more sustainable world. Drogba spoke to the ownership opportunity and the people that have inspired him:
Sport and sustainability together, it’s a winning combination. Gabrielle and I are both fierce competitors so we’re going to build a strong team. We’re inspired by legends such as Senna and Schumacher, but most especially by Lewis Hamilton, winning F1 championships, breaking barriers and acting as a leader for a new generation of pilots.
Pollution has caused the destruction and loss of coastal habitats around the world. The degradation of our underwater eco-systems poses a series threat to marine life and livelihoods of coastal communities. So we want to have a positive impact through the accelerated development of clean technologies and inspiring change. But we’re also going to have fun for a great cause. Rafa and Checo, get ready! We are coming for you. And we’re here to win!
The inaugural UIM E1 World Championship is scheduled to begin later this year as race
organizers state they will continue to accelerate preparations, promising more teams and confirmed race venues soon. Better hurry.
This is another big get by E1 as it looks to bring as much hype to season 1 as possible… whenever that may be. The original schedule was originally anticipated to begin this past spring, but we still seem to be a ways away as E1 is now saying “late 2023” for a championship series kickoff.
The nascent series now has four teams, but has always hoped to begin racing with at least ten, so it’s going to have to hustle to find more owners quickly to get a viable competition together.
Although I do want to see E1 racing begin sooner rather than later, I don’t mind waiting because I’m genuinely unsure what I’m waiting for, meaning I’m not even sure what to expect in electric boat racing. The prospect of it looks promising, and the adjacent focus on foundations and the environment is a big plus – similar to Formula E. People love a brand with a positive cause.
I’m looking forward to seeing what countries/teams/owners join in next and how well season one goes. I’d very much like to see a competition in person, but E1 has to get there first. I’ll be watching!
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