Oil prices surge after Gulf of Oman tanker attacks

The Saudi oil tanker Al-Marzoqah was one of the four ships damaged in alleged ‘sabotage attacks’ a month earlier off the coast of Fujairah. (AFP)
Updated 13 June 2019
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Oil prices surge after Gulf of Oman tanker attacks

  • The attacks took place to the east of the Strait of Hormuz, a major strategic waterway for world oil supplies, raising fears of disruption to the global energy trade
  • They come at a time of heightened tensions over Iran’s activities in the region and after Tehran has repeatedly threatened to disrupt shipping in and out of the Arabian Gulf

LONDON: Twin attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman, close to the world’s biggest energy chokepoint, sent oil prices surging by as much as 4.5 percent on Thursday.

The attacks took place to the east of the Strait of Hormuz, a major strategic waterway for world oil supplies, raising fears of disruption to the global energy trade. 

They come at a time of heightened tensions over Iran’s activities in the region and after Tehran has repeatedly threatened to disrupt shipping in and out of the Arabian Gulf.

Benchmark brent crude prices were up by 1.8 percent to $61.06 at around 4 p.m. GMT, having risen as much as 4.5 percent earlier in the day.

Thursday’s attacks involved the Front Altair, which caught fire in between the coast of Iran and the UAE after an explosion, and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, which was abandoned after being hit by a suspected torpedo.

The incidents follow the “sabotage” of four commercial vessels off the coast of the UAE’s Fujairah port last month.

Robin Mills, CEO of consultancy Qamar Energy, told Arab News that Thursday’s attacks were “considerably” more serious than the Fujairah incident. 

“Security will no doubt be beefed up, but it will have to be extended further if there is any repetition of such an attack,” he said. 

The impact on oil prices came despite global exporters having the capacity to boost production if needed, Mills added. 

“On the overall market, demand growth is weakening and there is plenty of spare capacity, but most of this is in the Gulf, of course. So (it is) not surprising we saw the price response,” he said. 

Andy Lipow, an analyst at Lipow Oil Associates in Houston, said the attacks could have a further knock-on impact on the market, notably on insurance risk premiums. 

“These types of attacks have always been a concern,” he told Reuters.

“But the impact of tanker owners not chartering their vessels and insurance companies potentially refusing to provide coverage could further exacerbate the supply problem.”


Slack primed as latest unicorn to make market debut

Updated 19 June 2019
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Slack primed as latest unicorn to make market debut

  • Slack is a cloud-based software company that markets online tools for information sharing and workflow management
  • Current customers include Nordstrom, Ford and HSBC and the company has more than 95,000 paid customers overall

NEW YORK: The 2019 parade of big new Wall Street entrants continues this week with the debut of Slack Technologies, underscoring investor hunger for new companies in spite of some high-profile stumbles.
Nearly halfway through the year, US markets are on track for one of the biggest IPO seasons ever in terms of money raised following a stream of offerings from former “unicorns,” private companies worth more than $1 billion.
Yet two of this year’s biggest names — Uber and Lyft — currently trade below their IPO price, along with Snapchat, which has lagged its initial price for most of the time since it went public in March 2017.
Still, there have also been plenty of prominent companies that have risen since their initial public offerings, including jeans company Levi’s, Tradeweb Markets, which builds electronic marketplaces, Zoom Video Communications, and mobile application and software system Pinterest.
The most dramatic jump has been in food company Beyond Meat, which now trades at more than six-fold its entering price.
“The public has a huge interest” in new companies, said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade, adding that the mixed performance of the 2019 ex-unicorn class is comparable to that of the broader market.
“There aren’t a lot of other choices besides IPOs for investors seeking growth,” said Gregori Volokhine, president of Meeschaert Financial Services, who attributes the rush of funds in part to central bank policies promoting liquidity.
“There’s an excess of underinvested funds worldwide,” he said.
In terms of sheer volume, the number of IPOs in 2019 so far — 93 — is roughly equal to last year’s figure, according to Dealogic.
But the funds raised, $34.5 billion, stand 13.6 percent above last year’s sum and the highest for the comparable period since 2000, according to Dealogic data.

Direct listing
A cloud-based software company that markets online tools for information sharing and workflow management, San Francisco-based Slack parts ways from the other big companies this year by opting for a direct listing instead of an IPO.
This approach, which was also employed by Spotify last year, cuts down on fees to investment bankers in IPOs. Although existing shares can be sold, a direct listing does not issue new shares, averting share dilution but also forgoing the new funds raised in an IPO.
The process can also be riskier in terms of share price volatility compared with an IPO, where underwriters line up investors in advance. In a direct listing, shares are exposed more directly to the open market.
Slack chief executive and co-founder Stewart Butterfield described the company’s technologies as a “brand new category of software” that replaces email in a company.
Current customers include Nordstrom, Ford and HSBC and the company has more than 95,000 paid customers overall.
“It turns email to messages and organizes them into team, project and topic based channels instead of individual in-boxes,” Butterfield said in a June 10 earnings conference call.
“It’s a team-first approach to communication, in contrast to email’s individual first approach. It creates a rich, searchable, permanent body of information that’s widely available across an organization, even for people who just joined the team.”
 

Unprofitable three years
The company, which is expected to be valued at around $17 billion when it enters the market on Thursday, reported revenues of $134.8 million in the quarter ending April 30, up 66.7 percent from the year-ago period.
But Slack, which has been unprofitable the last three years, reported a $33.3 million loss during the period, 34 percent more than last year’s loss.
Of course, many unprofitable companies have gone public and done well in markets for years. Yet the heavy losses and murky profit outlook at Uber and Lyft have been seen as factors in their lackluster performance since going public.
But investors remain keen on growth stories following the success of Amazon, Facebook and other tech giants that have emerged in recent decades.
A key beneficiary of this desire has been Beyond Meat, which has multiplied in value many times since going public May 3 at $25 and currently is priced at $168.92. The company has been seen as a main beneficiary of the growing alternative protein market, which some analysts think could top $100 billion in the coming decade or so.
Kinahan said in general investors have wised up after the early 2000s Internet bubble but that “it’s just unnatural” for stocks like Beyond Meat to move in an unbroken straight line upwards.
“There’s a healthy bit of skepticism in the market,” he said. “However, certain companies have maybe gotten a little ahead of themselves.”