Top Oil Trader Sees No Relief for Beaten-Down Oil Sector

Penn West Petroleum Ltd. (TSX:PWT)(NYSE:PWE) and Pengrowth Energy Corp. (TSX:PGF)(NYSE:PGH) cut dividends as one top oil trader suggests oil prices won’t recover for at least a year.

The Motley Fool

As the layoffs and dividend cuts continue to pile up in Canada’s oil sector, one of the world’s top independent oil traders says weak oil prices will continue well into 2016. Supplies are continuing to overwhelm demand, says Vitol Group BV chief executive officer Ian Taylor, meaning stockpiles will keep expanding for the next few quarters, and inventories might not clear until 2017.

“Oil prices will be stuck between $40 and $60 a barrel this year and in 2016,” Taylor said in an interview with Bloomberg. “I don’t see much reason to go higher and we can go lower,” and this is because the physical crude oil market is “quite weak” right now.

Vitol, which handles more than five million barrels a day of crude oil and refined products, hasn’t been hurt significantly by lower prices as independent producers benefit from a structure known as contango, where forward prices are higher than current costs, allowing traders to buy oil, store it, and lock in a higher selling price for a later date using derivatives.

Other oil producers haven’t been so lucky. On Tuesday Penn West Petroleum Ltd. (TSX:PWT)(NYSE:PWE) announced plans to cut its workforce by 400 jobs and said it would suspend dividend payments to shareholders after its next payment in October in the wake of stubbornly low oil prices. The oil and gas producer also said it would reduce drilling and other operating costs.

Penn West said it expects to save about $45 million per year from the reductions, for which it will record a charge in the current quarter. In March, Penn West reduced its quarterly dividend to one cent per share from 14 cents. The company expects to save about $20 million by suspending the payout altogether.

Penn West reported a net loss of $28 million in the second quarter compared with net income of $143 million in the second quarter last year. Revenues fell 45% to $360 million as production in the quarter averaged around 91,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, down from about 106,000 last year, but still within the company’s guidance range.

Meanwhile, Pengrowth Energy Corp. (TSX:PGF)(NYSE:PGH) announced plans to cut its dividend in half to one cent per share in response to weak oil prices. The cut will take effect in December after the oil company makes a previously scheduled payment of two cents per share on Sept. 15.

University of Calgary energy economist Michal Moore told CBC News he expects there will be more oil patch layoffs this fall. “The long term picture is—at least over the next 18 months or so—is pretty bleak. And the companies are hunkering down trying to make sure they can survive that period,” he said.

So, the evidence suggests that weak oil prices will continue for at least another year, leading to more layoffs and dividend cuts. It’s a clear signal for investors to avoid the sector until it shows some signs of life.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium service or advisor. We’re Motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer, so we sometimes publish articles that may not be in line with recommendations, rankings or other content.

Fool contributor Doug Watt has no position in any stocks mentioned.

More on Dividend Stocks

money cash dividends
Dividend Stocks

TFSA Investors: Create $313 in Passive Income by Buying in 114 Shares in 3 Dividend Stocks

Canadian investors seeking passive income from dividend stocks should think beyond the first year, but here is what you could…

Read more »

Money growing in soil , Business success concept.
Dividend Stocks

This Canadian Monthly Dividend Stock Pays 11.5% Every Year

Here’s a great Canadian dividend stock you can consider buying now to earn handsome passive income each month.

Read more »

Dividend Stocks

Already up 15.87%: Is Dollarama Stock Still Worth Buying Today?

Is Dollarama stock worth buying as a defensive growth stock, despite inflation normalizing in recent months?

Read more »

grow money, wealth build
Dividend Stocks

Looking for Dividend Stocks in Canada? Check Out These Top Picks

Invest in these two top dividend stocks in Canada for long-term wealth growth through a self-directed passive income stream.

Read more »

value for money
Dividend Stocks

Here are 4 TSX Stocks That Look Like Great Buys for Value Investors

Four TSX stocks with strong fundamentals but underperforming in 2023 are great buys for value investors.

Read more »

The sun sets behind a high voltage telecom tower.
Dividend Stocks

Why TSX Utility Stocks Look Appealing Right Now

TSX utility stocks will likely outperform this year given the impending recession and steady rates.

Read more »

financial freedom sign
Dividend Stocks

2 TSX Stocks for a Legit Shot at $1 Million in 20 Years

Quality TSX stocks such as Brookfield Renewable Partners have the ability to increase long-term investor wealth at a consistent pace.

Read more »

Canadian Dollars
Dividend Stocks

How to Create a Passive-Income Portfolio With Just $6,500

A passive-income portfolio is easy to start and easy to grow, as long as investors remain consistent. You can even…

Read more »