Tuesday, May 15, 2012

China's Oil Thirst Drives Everything

The China growth story is still sputtering, but some pillars take longer to collapse then others.  PetroChina has just surpassed Exxon in oil production.  The Chinese government created PetroChina to serve its geopolitical goal of maximizing the material prosperity of its people.  Pumping as much oil as possible is the priority, with capitalistic concepts like ROI as a secondary concern.  Please note that PetroChina (PTR) has an ROE of over 13% and has added steadily to its retained earnings.  The stock is a success story primarily due to geopolitical realities.  They can sustain that growth if they can muscle into more acquisitions in Africa and the Middle East.

China's oil thirst is also driving rates for VRCC hulls.  That's good news for non-captive oil tanker operators who have capacity to spare.  Such capacity may get tight if the price of oil keeps dropping.  Lower oil prices in the U.S. mean less domestic production here and more imports from somewhere else where production is cheaper.  China's slowdown means more than just cheaper commodity inputs for the U.S. and Europe.  It means the Chinese government's hidden subsidies to its state-sponsored resource explorers will be more costly and less effective at creating a veneer of prosperity.  If China is concerned about reducing the cost of capital available to its economy, then opening its economy to more foreign investment is certainly one solution.  Cost of capital is probably not the main concern of Chinese regulators; fighting fraud and making the yuan more globally fungible rank higher on the national priority list.

Full disclosure:  No positions in PTR or XOM.  Long FXI with covered calls.