By Amy Stillman and Eric Martin
Under the presidency of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Pemex will invest 1.95 trillion pesos ($102 billion) by 2024, the state-owned oil producer said in an e-mailed document on Tuesday ahead of the release of its full business plan. Of that amount, 269 billion pesos between 2020 and 2022 will come from tax breaks and government allocations. Another 108 billion pesos through 2023 is expected to come from so-called integrated exploration and extraction contracts, a new type of service contract for drilling, Pemex said.
The state-owned firm is focusing on exploration in shallow and onshore areas, said its chief executive officer Octavio Romero during Lopez Obrador’s daily morning conference.
The plan “in essence consists of continuing to support Pemex in the first three years of the government with a budget resources and reducing taxes so Pemex has the ability to invest, and that in the last three years of the government Pemex can contribute to the development of Mexico,” Lopez Obrador said.
The Mexican peso fell 0.6%, among the most in emerging markets, to 19.09 per dollar at 12:24pm in Mexico City. The yield on Pemex’s benchmark 2027 bond rose 8 basis points, or 0.08 percentage point, to 6.84%, the first increase in four days.
The plan is underwhelming, and a rating downgrade for both the sovereign bonds and Pemex is only “a matter of time,” Citigroup Inc. analysts led by Ernesto Revilla said in a client note. The strategy “doesn’t solve the main structural problems of the company,” Citigroup said.
Romero has sought to cut costs by renegotiating drilling service contracts and has merged subsidiaries in a bid to streamline processes. He’s also said that the company won’t increase its net indebtedness between 2019 and 2021, after which it will reduce debt with higher cash flows from oil production until 2024.
Pemex is the biggest borrower of any oil company, with $106.5 billion of debt. Many fear that a government decision to freeze oil auctions and Pemex joint-ventures that enabled it to develop oil fields with partners will stunt output growth. While Pemex aims to boost production in shallow-water and onshore fields, critics point out that the deep-waters areas have the greatest potential for big discoveries. And the focus on building a seventh refinery could divert attention from its main job: drilling.
“Pemex is trying to be too many things at the same time under the new government policy, and its portfolio is very inefficient,” said Pablo Medina, vice president of Welligence Energy Analytics. The only way for Pemex to dig itself out of the hole they are in is to sell non-core assets and restart joint-ventures, said Medina. “They need to take advantage of what the energy reform allows, leverage capital and stop trying to do it all by themselves,” he said.
On the whole, the yield on Pemex’s benchmark 2027 bond has fallen over the year, though it spiked in June after Fitch Ratings cut the company’s credit rating to junk. Another junk rating for Pemex could lead to widespread forced selling as the credit drops off the major investment-grade indexes.
Pemex, which has failed to meet output goals every year for at least the past decade, aims to increase oil output to 2.7 million barrels a day by 2024, a 58% increase from current levels. Output is less than half of what it was in 2004 and Mexico’s proven oil reserves have fallen 77% in two decades. It will invest 58 billion pesos in its refineries this year, up from 14 billion last year, it said.