I’m sad to say that after eight months of running Energy Source, I’m moving onto pastures new, to take up a position in Westminster as political correspondent. You can continue to read my posts (some may even be energy-related) in the FT and on the Westminster blog.
From Tuesday, May 31, Energy Source will be run by the FT’s energy team, led by Sylvia Pfeifer (there will be no headlines or post on Monday 30th because of public holidays in the US and UK). Please keep emailing email@example.com with your great ideas and comments.
Many thanks to all our readers, especially anyone who has contributed in any way to our coverage and comments.
Hungary is taking no chances with control of Mol (MOL:BUD), the national oil company. After announcing a €2.88bn deal to buy back a controversial 21.2 per cent stake from Surgutneftgaz, the secretive Russian energy group, Budapest is proposing to up its stake further, to up to 24 per cent.
The fact that the cash-strapped government, which emerged from an IMF rescue only last year, is spending big money on increasing national control over Mol highlights how sensitive Hungary is over Russian influence in the energy sector. Most other central European states are no different. Oil sector investors in the region ignore politics at their peril.
The additional shares are coming from the semi- private pension funds that the government is nationalising, taking control of their €10bn portfolios, including a 2-2.4 per cent stake in Mol. Peter Szijjarto, the government spokesman, said on television late on Tuesday that the state would also retain these shares taking its stake to up to 24 per cent.
We all knew that the collapse of BP’s deal with Rosneft to drill in the Arctic was more damaging for BP than it was for its Russian prospective partners.
For BP, the deal represented the chance not only to tap the significant Arctic resources for which Rosneft holds licenses, but also a chance to diversify away from the Gulf of Mexico, and to show the world it can still drill safely in difficult places, even after last year’s spill.
But Rosneft, while preferring the technical skills BP had to offer, still has plenty of options on the table. Big oil companies are lining up to take BP’s place and exploit the Arctic’s resources themselves. And none of them bring the baggage of existing Russian partners who could get in the way.
Just as private equity houses are found to be ramping up their interest in the oil and gas sector, they are at the same time backing out of green energy and cleantech, worried about the possibility of a green bubble forming.
A survey by Rothstein Kass showed 24 per cent of more than 200 PE fund managers highlighting the green sector as the most likely to produce the next investment bubble.
With two private equity groups having pulled out of the bidding, Toshiba is closing in on a $2bn deal to buy Landis+Gyr, the world’s largest smart-meter maker by revenues.
The battle for the company shows how big an opportunity companies and governments view demand-side management. L+G already has orders to provide 62,000 meters to Finland’s Oulu Energy; and more than 10,000 to six provinces in China, which will create the world’s largest smart grid.
Wednesday has been an important day for the nuclear industry.
First of all, Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan (pictured) told reporters he wanted to remodel entirely his country’s energy supply around renewable technology. He said:
I have repeatedly said that we need to rethink our basic energy policy from scratch… The direction that it may take will likely be centered around wind, solar, and biomass energy.
Shokri Ghanem, the chairman of the Libyan National Oil Corporation, has left the country for Tunisia, in what is being called by the Libyan rebels and the British foreign office a defection.
Two days ago, Libyan officials were denying the story, but Moussa Ibrahim, Libyan government spokesperson, has said he had not managed to contact Mr Ghanem on the phone since Monday night, when speculation about his defection had already begun.
Mr Ibrahim added that, even if Mr Ghanem had defected, it would not be a “big deal” and would be “his decision”. He added that high-ranking regime officials had defected before. “We are not relying on any one individual,” he said.
I speculated this month somewhat idly on whether the UK or US energy secretary would be the first to quit his post. Many in the gossipy world of Westminster politics are betting on an imminent departure of Chris Huhne. But after one of the stormiest weekends of his political life, it is difficult to say whether he is now stronger or weaker.
The story that might yet kill Huhne’s political career, at least in the short term, is entirely non energy-related. Police are considering whether to investigate claims that he asked another person to take driving penalty points on his behalf for a speeding offence. He denies any wrongdoing.
Tepco president Masataka Shimizu
The news last week that the Japanese government was close to agreeing a bailout plan for Tepco, the electricity company that owns the Fukushima nuclear plant, should have come as a relief for the company and its debt holders.
But the opposite appears to be true. Amid uncertainty over the structure of the bailout and when it might finally be agreed, Moody’s has taken the proactive step of downgrading the company’s debt, saying that the plan as it looks so far actually increases the risk of a default.
The clause that particularly seems to trouble the ratings agency is the one that Tepco will only be insured for compensation payments of up to Y120bn. Anything above that limit will be the company’s liability.