With oil prices seemingly on firm footing, Wall Street is pouring money back into the shale sector, expecting profits even at $50 per barrel.
The private equity industry raised an estimated $19.8 billion in funds for energy investment in the first quarter of this year, or about three times as much as the same period in 2016. The figures indicate a more aggressive approach from private equity in shale drilling, and rising expectations that the oil market is set to rebound. The data comes from Preqin, and was reported on by Reuters.
The optimism comes even as oil prices have languished in the $50 per barrel range since November, after briefly dipping into the $40s last month. The hopes of a stronger rebound by now have been dashed, and oil analysts have steadily revised their expectations, pushing out their projections for stronger price gains. The extraordinary gains in U.S. crude oil inventories in the first quarter caught the market – and OPEC – by surprise, killing off hopes of oil heading north of $60 per barrel.
But the new money from Wall Street need not depend on $60+ oil. Lenders are confident that their investments will turn out to be profitable even at the prevailing market price today. That is because shale drillers have dramatically cut their costs, pushing breakeven prices down. “Shale funders look at the economics today and see a lot of projects that work in the $40 to $55 range,” Howard Newman, head of private equity fund Pine Brook Road Partners, told Reuters. His firm dumped $300 million in Permian driller Admiral Permian Resources LLC in March.
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