Mon | Aug 21, 2017

PSOJ backs oil hedge strategy

Published:Wednesday | February 3, 2016 | 2:00 AMMcPherse Thompson

The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) says it is in the country's best interest to further hedge against the upward movement in the price of oil, a strategy the Government first adopted in June last year.

The hedge purchased by Jamaica last year at a strike price of US$66 has come in for criticism because oil prices are currently falling, and analysts are predicting further decreases this year.

However, PSOJ president William Mahfood said if the world crude prices remain low for an extended period, the options to buy will also be reduced and gives Jamaica an opportunity to hedge at concomitantly lower prices.

"We feel strongly that if the strike prices are attractive and if prices are maintained at these lower levels that it is in the country's best interest to buy that insurance policy going forward," Mahfood told Wednesday Business.

Asked if the PSOJ would encourage the Government to negotiate any differently in entering into such contracts, Mahfood, while noting that "it's really a function of time, and it's a question of volatility," emphasised that "if oil prices remain low for an extended period of time, what you will find is that the option prices will come down, and if those prices come down further, it will definitely be in the country's interest for us to hedge further".

While some projections are for prices to fall to US$20, Mahfood said that no one knows exactly where they will end up.

"The best analysts in the world will tell you that the oil price might be a US$53 in December or it might be at US$100."

He said the PSOJ feels strongly about maintaining some sort of stability in terms of the prices, given what the impact the lower costs have had on the economy in terms of energy which has, for example, resulted in lower electricity bills for both households and manufacturers.

In a release on Monday, the PSOJ said it has taken note of commentary on the oil hedge strategy Jamaica effected last year by purchasing options to buy eight million barrels of oil, representing about half the country's annual requirement, at a price of US$66 per barrel.

The total cost of the option, which became effective in June 2015 and expires September this year, was approximately US$20 million.

One argument, the PSOJ said, was that the hedge was a waste of money as oil prices have fallen to US$30 per barrel, and the strike price, where Jamaica would have started to benefit, is US$66 per barrel.

The PSOJ noted that projections last year were for oil prices to recover in 2016 with most expecting it to go past US$66 per barrel and settling at around US$80 per barrel, which at 17 million barrels per year, would have had an annual cost above the strike price of US$234 million.

"If this had happened then we would have saved US$214 million (net of the option cost of US$20m). So for us to even have broken even on the cost of the option, oil prices would have had to go to US$67.20 per barrel (additional US$20 million based on our usage above the strike price)," PSOJ said.

It noted that the hedge is not a contract for supply at the strike price of US$66, but an option to purchase at that price so the only cost would be the US$20 million fee.

"It is also important to note that the amount applied to pay for the hedge was applied while prices were falling, so it was not an additional cost, which was important as it did not reduce already existing consumption spending," the private sector group said.

"The fact is that we could ill afford oil moving back to US$80 per barrel, and the cost of US$20 million to mitigate a US$200 million risk, like insurance, makes good business sense," said the PSOJ.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com