CHINA'S VICTORY IN MEXICO
According to FT, China has muscled its way into investment in Mexico by grabbing two deepwater oil blocks as part of an auction considered the jewel in the crown of the country's energy reform, in a move that boosts the two nations' sometimes testy economic ties.
It is the first test of investment appetite in Mexico since the election victory of Donald Trump, who has blamed both countries for luring away US jobs. The result showed "Mexico is a very competitive country that attracts investment from all places," said Pedro Joaquín Coldwell, energy secretary.
The auction of the deepwater blocks, four in the Perdido Fold belt near the US side of the Gulf and six in the unexplored Salina basin further south, marked the culmination of the first round of auctions since Mexico enacted a sweeping reform to open a sector closed to private exploration and production for nearly 80 years.
Mr Joaquín Coldwell said the Mexican government was delighted China had come "to compete and win. If that contributes to opening a new chapter [in Sino-Mexican relations] that will be something else good to have come out of the energy reform". Two years ago Mexico cancelled a $3.6bn high-speed rail contract won by a Chinese-led consortium, straining relations.
Duncan Wood, head of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center, said: "Up to now, China has not been a major player in Mexico and this is a sign that they really want to get involved here."
China's Cnooc won two of the 10 blocks on offer, one of them just 6.5km from the maritime border with the US, with bids that far outstripped the minimum required. Cnooc's first offer was nearly six times higher than the minimum required, and its second was almost as big.
The high bids will mean a big payout for the government if large deposits are found.
With eight out of 10 blocks awarded, as well as a joint venture with state-owned oil company Pemex in a separate auction, the tender was a huge success. Mr Coldwell said total investment for Mexico would be $41bn over the life of the contracts.
A consortium made up of Norway's Statoil, BP, and Total of France also won two contracts; Mexican oil company Sierra was part of consortiums that won two other licences and a Chevron-led bid scooped another, as did Total and ExxonMobil of the US. Shell proved the biggest loser among oil majors, failing to win the only block it bid for.
Cnooc beat Pemex in the first block on offer in the Perdido Fold belt. The block borders the Trion field, where Anglo-Australian resources company BHP Billiton earlier won the joint venture contract with Pemex, the first in the Mexican company's 78-year history.
Pemex chief executive José Antonio González Anaya told the FT that he would have asked new partner, BHP Billiton, to join it in developing that block if it had won. Asked if he would now seek partnerships with Cnooc, Mr González Anaya said: "We'll have to see what happens."
He admitted to having been afraid no one would bid for Trion, which Pemex had to stop developing because of an austerity programme. "It's a great day for Mexico, for Pemex. It's historic," he said. Production is expected to start at Trion in 2023 and to reach 120m barrels per day by 2025.
While the US side of the Gulf accounts for 17 per cent of US crude production, the Mexican side is still largely a blank slate, especially the virgin Salina basin.
A consortium led by Murphy of the US and including Britain's Ophir, PC Carigali — part of Malaysia's Petronas — and Sierra beat two rival offers for a block in the Salina basin with an offer 14 times higher than the minimum required.
Pemex is undergoing a sweeping restructuring and is betting on deals such as its first joint venture to help it boost flagging production, expected to dip to 1.9m barrels per day next year. The joint venture "converts Pemex into a 21st century oil company", Mr Joaquín Coldwell said.
Pemex has made losses for 16 straight quarters and embarked on brutal cost-cutting.
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