The Guardian reports today that “money [is] no object as the big players grab what is left of a diminishing resource”, quoting the recent decision by Sinopec of China to pay $1bn for the right to explore for oil in deep water off Angola. This has “shocked” the west, “which fears it could be left behind in a global scramble for resources”.
Just a few years ago such blocks off Angola were selling for $35m. However prices are rising as competition from China and India intensifies over the last remaining frontier areas where vast quantities of oil are to be found. Coupled with the recent moves by Latin American governments to renationslise oil and gas assets, and with many reserves in the Middle East still off-limits, the oil majors are going to Africa and Asia to find oil.
The oil grab is also triggering a merger and acquisition bonanza. China National Petroleum Corporation recently bought PetroKazakhstan for $4.2bn, while China National Offshore Oil Corporation (Cnooc) caused panic in Washington last year when it tried to buy the US oil group, Unocal.
Bruce Evers, oil analyst with Investec Securities in London, says asset prices are likely to continue to increase. “It’s absolutely staggering what companies are forking out.”
But with prices at $75 a barrel the oil industry remains a cash-rich business, and so for the moment they can afford to pay silly prices. But for how much longer?