Overall, activity in the oil & gas industry across the African continent has slowed in the wake of the declining oil price in late 2014. “While the oil price has caused activity to drop, it has also served as a wake-up call to many African governments, which are working hard to pass favourable oil & gas legislation in order to attract investment into the sector,” commented Chris Bredenhann, PwC Africa Oil & Gas Advisory Leader. Countries such as Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania have been taking a serious look at legislation currently in place with a view to making it more investor-friendly.
PwC’s ‘Africa oil & gas review, 2015’ analyses what has happened in the last 12 months in the oil & gas industry within the major and emerging African markets. As oil prices declined in 2014, the industry response has been far-reaching with significant reduction in headcount and other cost cutting measures. Capital budgets have also been cut, and frontier exploration activity has decreased. “While response to such a drastic decline is necessary, we have seen the most successful organisations are taking time to reset, re-strategise and plan for the upturn in prices, which will inevitably come. Africa should be no exception as many of the frontier exploration plays lie on the continent,” added Bredenhann.
As at the end of 2014, Africa has proven natural gas reserves of fewer than 500 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) with 90 percent of the continent’s annual natural gas production still coming from Nigeria, Libya, Algeria and Egypt.
Growth and development
The main challenges identified by organisations in the oil & gas industry have remained largely unchanged with the top three issues of uncertain regulatory framework, corruption and poor physical infrastructure also identified as the biggest challenges in 2014. Uncertain regulatory frameworks remain a concern across the industry, with more than 80 percent of Tanzanian respondents regarding regulatory uncertainty as the top challenge facing the business. Other countries where respondents cited concern about regulatory uncertainty include Nigeria, Kenya and Angola.
The inadequacy of basic infrastructure ranked much higher in the current review than in 2013. Areas in which infrastructure remains limited are likely to see the development of existing discoveries stalled unless there is a domestic need for the resource.
Organisations identified the price of oil and natural gas as the most significant factor that would affect their companies’ businesses over the next three years. “This is not surprising given the current uncertainty around the market. Fortunately industry players are looking beyond current prices when planning for the longer term,” said Brendenhann.
People skills and skills retention is rated the second most likely factor to impact business over the next three years. Community/social activism, instability and unstoppable political events, ranked fourth, are a noteworthy concern in the oil & gas industry. Organisations from South Africa, Mozambique, Nigeria and Kenya, in particular, expected community/social activism/instability and unstoppable political events to have a significant impact on their business.
The results of the report show that 90 percent of respondents expect the oil price to increase gradually over the next three years. Moreover, asset management and optimisation also remains a top strategic focus area for oil & gas companies over the next three years.
Financing and investing
After a rush of bidding rounds in 2014, 2015 and 2016 appear to be comparatively quiet with only a handful of bidding rounds expected. This is partly due to the flurry of bidding rounds in the previous couple of years and a consolidation of these agreements together with the lower oil price and lower interest to invest.
While it seems that the temporary meltdown is receding, African governments have shifted into gear to promulgate and ratify oil & gas regulations that are intended to encourage the monetisation of assets, while doing away with policy uncertainties.
Although merger and acquisition (M&A) activity was low in 2014/15, around one-fifth of respondents have been targeted, and a third of respondents has targeted or intends targeting companies for acquisition. This suggests that an increase in M&A activity can be expected in the near future.
Forty-one percent of E&P companies said that they would be investing in the development of drilling or exploration programmes, which is significantly lower than in 2014 when 70 percent reported this as a key strategic focus.
Combating fraud and corruption
Almost all organisations indicated that they have an anti-fraud and anti-corruption programme in place. Of these, more than half believe that the programme is very effective at preventing and/or detecting fraud. Only eight percent of respondents indicated that they did not have a compliance programme.
Just less than half of respondents indicated that fraud and corruption would have a severe effect on their businesses. Government officials continue to be implicated in a number of fraudulent activities across the continent. Recent research conducted by PwC shows that bribery and procurement fraud remain some of the top types of economic crimes in the broader energy, mining and utilities sectors. Despite pervasive fraud, some governments around the continent have made significant efforts to increase transparency in the industry.
Under the current economic climate, oil & gas companies are looking to increasing production potential through improving efficiencies and operational excellence. In addition, they are also looking towards exploration and finding new resources as an alternative for sustainability. A vast majority of respondents reported that they will be looking at formal cost reduction measures in the next three years. In as much as businesses are considering other measures to ensure their sustainability over and above monetising natural resources, they are also expecting the commodity price to increase in the future. And despite development in renewable and alternative sources of energy across Africa, respondents do not expect demand for these to have a significant impact on oil & gas businesses over the next three years.
The presence of an uncertain regulatory framework is one of the biggest issues in developing the oil & gas business in Africa. South Africa’s uncertain regulatory framework for the oil & gas industry is mainly due to unclear and overlapping mandates between the Government and state-owned companies. Furthermore, the enforcement of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) has raised a number of compliance challenges in the industry, primarily resulting from new requirements directly introduced by the Act.
Fit for $50
Organisations expect the Brent crude price spread to shift up over the three-year period, although, if it remains within a US$30 band, it will be reasonably consistent. Almost all of respondents expect a price range of US$50 – 80 in 2015; while 90 percent expect a price range of US$60 – 90 in 2016; and 87 percent of the respondents expect a price range of US$60 – 90 in 2017.
The volatility and, in particular, low oil price have been highlighted as the most important factors affecting the industry, with more than half of E&P and non E&P companies expecting price fluctuations to have a high or very severe impact on their businesses.
Respondents are also uncertain about what to expect with acreage/licence acquisition costs. Just over a third believe acreage costs will increase, especially in Kenya and Mozambique. Respondents in developed markets such as Nigeria and Angola expect acreage costs to decrease as potential reserves valuations are affected by the oil price.
Furthermore, the results of the survey show that there is an expectation that the competitive landscape is likely to undergo change, with more than half of respondents sharing this view.
“The oil price decline, skills shortages and uncertain regulatory frameworks have put the oil & gas industry on the African continent in dire straits. The combined effect of these challenges places an increased burden on exploration activity and economies heavily reliant on oil & gas revenue, which may have far-reaching socio-economic impacts as a result.
“With activity reduced, this is an ideal time for companies to address the challenges related to doing business in Africa. Strategic planning is required for continued, profitable presence on the continent. The players that emerge when the oil price rebounds are going to be agile engines that are ready to take on the market,” concluded Bredenhann.
Pictured: Chris Bredenhann, PwC Africa Oil & Gas Advisory Leader