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商业 - 能源

石油行业:重组难度大,巨头没玩完

Shelley DuBois 2011年08月09日

目前,石油价格持续高企,能源巨头拆分部分业务或许合情合理。但考虑到组织架构难题,这一举措或许并不合算。

    巨无霸式的石油公司或许已是明日黄花,但还不至于一夜凋零。

    随着康菲石油公司(ConocoPhillips)和马拉松石油公司(Marathon)等行业巨头纷纷宣布拆分,行业领袖和市场纷纷对庞大的综合性石油公司模式提出质疑。从原油开采到油气零售,这些石油巨头在整个行业的各个领域无孔不入。

    然而,即使石油巨头的企业模式遭到了质疑,而且这种质疑也合情合理,但这并不意味它会就此退出历史舞台。

    几天前,《财富》杂志(Fortune)指出,许多大型石油公司的价值被低估。从理论上来讲,拆分石油巨头可以为股东带来数十亿美元的价值。但在做出拆分公司这样的极端决策之前,除了短期股东的收益外,大型石油公司还需要考虑许多因素。有些石油公司最终可能依然会做出决定,放弃综合性、一站式服务的运营模式。但不论大型石油公司会经历哪些变化,石油巨头还将是石油巨头。

时好时坏的“巨头”模式

    在石油行业,通常按照河流区域的划分,将石油公司划分为上游、中游和下游。而一家标准的石油巨头通常占据整个产业链。上游包括新油井的勘探、开采和原油泵送。中游是指通过船运和管道运输新开采的石油。而下游则涉及产品的加工。下游资产通常包括炼油厂,即从原油中提取出不同的化工产品,比如汽油。加油站以及其他零售资产也属于下游。

    产业链上游能够产生巨大的利润。勘探到石油便可以带来丰厚的利润,并能实现快速资金回笼,但公司必须提前支出大笔资金,用于新油田的勘探和开采。

    油价走低时,掌握炼油和零售业务具有重要的意义,因为这两项业务能够提供稳定的资金流,用于新油井的勘探和开采。所以,从上世纪80年代到90年代初,油价持续走低,在此趋势的刺激下,大型石油公司掀起了大规模并购狂潮。于是,便有了今天的埃克森美孚石油公司(ExxonMobil)、英国石油阿莫科公司(BpAmaco)与康菲石油公司。

    但这种模式对康菲石油公司并不奏效。7月14日,康菲石油公司宣布,将在2012年上半年之前拆分其下游业务。市场对这一信息的反应良好。消息公布后,公司股价一度大涨了7.5%,不过之后出现回落,终场仅收高1.6%。今年1月份,马拉松石油公司宣布将剥离部分下游业务,对此市场反应积极。公司公布该决定之后,股价上涨了30%。于是,康菲石油公司紧随其后做出了同样的决定。

    这两家公司拆分成功使市场纷纷预测,其他石油巨头或许也会如法炮制。有人认为,炼油业务非常不稳定,尽管它也能产生价值,但更大程度上是一种拖累。而且,阿格斯研究公司(Argus Research Group)资深能源分析师菲利普•韦斯认为,许多所谓的“综合性”公司实际上只是徒有其名。他说:“一般情况下,综合性石油公司不会精炼自己开采的石油,而是就近寻找炼油企业。”

    康菲石油公司便是如此。而且,许多分析师认为,接下来,BP应该会效仿康菲,进行业务拆分。BP必须更新战略。许多分析师认为,该公司的股价被低估。摩根大通(J . P. Morgan)的一位分析师认为,拆分BP可以为股东释放1,000亿美元的价值。

    但BP可能不会进行拆分。倒不是说综合性模式是理想选择,这种模式当然存在弊端。但要将一家庞大的公司一分为二,却要面临重重困难。韦斯称:“综合性模式已今不如昔,而且也不再是必然的选择。但一旦公司采用了这种模式,再想摆脱便非常困难。”

马拉松与康菲为何是特例?

    与其他公司相比,马拉松石油公司与康菲石油公司进行业务拆分的条件更有利。马拉松石油公司尤其与众不同:许多石油与天然气公司正在剥离在美国的炼油业务,但马拉松原油公司(Marathon Petroleum)CEO加里•海明格却认为,公司将在这个市场中占据优势。马拉松原油公司是从马拉松石油公司下游业务拆分出的新公司。

    海明格在接受《财富》杂志采访时表示:“鉴于全球柴油销量将超过汽油,因此我们将采取了与众不同的战略。”

    马拉松石油公司并未放弃炼油业务,相反,它对该业务进行了升级。相比竞争对手,它可以生产更高比例的柴油。海明格希望,这一举措能够帮助公司满足全球市场日益增长的需求。

    而康菲石油公司将把主要精力放在石油勘探与开采上。但韦斯表示,康菲石油公司有一点不同于其他行业巨头。“康菲石油公司的规模并不像雪佛龙(Chevron)、埃克森美孚、BP或壳牌(Shell)等公司那么庞大。因此,与其他大型企业相比,康菲石油公司进行业务拆分的条件更加有利。”

    在这两家公司成功完成业务拆分之后,大型石油公司也纷纷效仿,对公司的资产进行“瘦身”。其实,它们已经在采取行动。雪佛龙公司宣布,将在今年出售部分下游资产,其中包括在爱尔兰的一家大型炼油厂。而在过去12年,壳牌公司已经将其炼油产能缩减了40%。

    但尽管大型石油公司纷纷希望摆脱下游资产,但买家却是众里难寻。韦斯称,正是因为如此,康菲公司的拆分更合理,因为与低价出售下游资产相比,成立一家独立的炼油厂显然更符合股东利益。

想说分手不容易

    曾经经历过分手的人肯定会说,分手非常残忍,即便这是正确的选择。波士顿咨询集团(The Boston Consulting Group)的高级合作伙伴阿兰•汤姆森表示:“要让这些公司进行分散经营,其复杂性将超乎想象。”

    他表示,首先需要理清各共享部门之间错综复杂的关系,比如环境安全部门和财务部。所以,对于埃克森美孚这样的行业巨头来说,业务拆分根本行不通。汤姆森表示:“埃克森美孚石油公司一直是典型的综合性石油公司。他们始终都控制着从原油到消费者的整条供应链。”

    而且,尽管美国和欧洲的炼油行业利润增长缓慢,但这项业务在其他地区可能反而是优势。汤姆森表示:“如果公司希望在中国市场中占据一席之地,能提供全套技术和能力这一点依然是非常具有吸引力的。”

    由于石油价格起伏不定,并且这种波动是一种常态,因此,石油公司的利润也会随之发生剧烈变化。有些公司不断萎缩,最终被拆分。但对于其他公司而言,保持庞大的规模才是最佳策略。当然,这一切都取决于石油价格能否始终维持在高位,使石油巨头的拆分能够“痛并快乐着”。进行拆分的公司显然赌定油价将持续走高。但是,如果说石油行业有一个必然的不确定因素,那便是油价。

    (翻译 刘进龙)

    Big Oil may be going out of style, but it is certainly not going away.

    With major players like ConocoPhillips (COP) and Marathon (MRO) splitting up, industry leaders and the market are starting to question the model of the huge, integrated oil company that handles every portion of the business, from plumbing crude out of the ground to selling it at the gas tank.

    But just because the Big Oil's big business model is being questioned -- and rightfully so -- doesn't mean it's going anywhere.

    A few days ago, Fortune pointed out that many big oil companies are undervalued. Splitting them, in theory, could be worth billions of dollars to shareholders. But Big Oil companies need to consider many more factors than short-term shareholder perks before making such drastic decisions. Some may go for it, deciding to opt out of the integrated, one-stop-oil-shop model. But despite the changes major petroleum companies may experience, oil will likely stay Big with a capital B.

When it makes sense to be big, and when it doesn't

    Within the industry, different parts of oil companies are descried as sections of a river: upstream, midstream and downstream. A typical Big Oil company owns the whole river. Upstream involves looking for new wells, drilling them, and pumping crude out of the ground. Midstream means the transportation of new oil by ship routes and pipelines. Then you hit downstream, which is all about processing the product. Downstream assets include refineries, which distill crude into different chemicals, including gasoline. Gas stations, and other retail operations, are also downstream.

    Big profits happen upstream. It pays well and pays quickly to strike oil, but companies have to spend a lot of money up front to explore new sites and then drill them.

    When oil prices are low, it makes sense to have a hand in the refining and retail businesses, since both provide a steady stream of money that can fund searching for new wells and drilling. So when oil prices dipped during 1980s, then stayed low through the early 1990s, it spurred a mega-merger trend among major oil companies. Hence, we currently have companies like ExxonMobil, BpAmaco, and ConocoPhillips.

    That model failed ConocoPhillips, which announced on July 14 that it will spin off its downstream division by the first half of 2012. The market reacted well to the announcement, and share prices of Conoco jumped 7.5% at the news, but the gap faded by the end of the trading day, closing at 1.6% higher than the opening price. Conoco's breakup comes on the heels of Marathon's announcement in January that it would undergo a similar split. The market loved it -- the company's share price rose 30% after the announcement.

    The success of these sales generated speculation that other big oil companies may follow suit. The refining business is volatile, and may be more trouble than its worth, some argue. Also, many "integrated" companies aren't actually integrated in practice, says Phillip Weiss, a senior energy analyst with Argus Research Group. "Generally integrated oil companies do not refine the oil they produce, instead it goes to wherever is closest," he says.

    That was the case with Conoco, and many analysts are starting to look to BP (BP) as the next in line for a split. The company needs to refresh its strategy. Its stock is undervalued, many analysts say. One J.P. Morgan analyst argued that a BP split could unlock $100 billion worth of value for shareholders.

    But BP probably won't split. Not that the integrated model is ideal. It isn't. But it's very hard to cut a giant in half. "The integrated model isn't what it used to be and it may not be necessary," says Weiss, " but if you have it, it may not be easy to get rid of it."

Why Marathon and Conoco are exceptions

    Marathon and Conoco were in better positions to split than other companies. Marathon in particular is different: while many oil and gas companies are shucking their refining businesses in America, Gary Heminger, CEO of Marathon's downstream spinoff Marathon Petroleum, believes the company will have an advantage in the market.

    "Our strategy was that diesel sales around the globe are going to outpace gasoline, so we did something different," Heminger told Fortune.

    Instead of cutting off refineries, Marathon is upgrading them to produce a higher percentage of diesel than its competitors, which Heminger hopes will help the company meet growing demand in the global market.

    Conoco, on the other hand, will probably focus the bulk of its business on oil exploration and drilling. But Conoco's also in a slightly different spot than other super majors, Weiss says. "Conoco's not as large as Chevron (CVX), Exxon (XOM), BP or Shell (RDSA). Sitting where it did, it probably was better positioned to make a run at doing this than larger companies."

    In the wake of these splits, Big Oil companies will be looking at their assets to trim extra flab. But they've already been doing this. Chevron announced plans to sell several downstream assets this year, including a major refinery in Ireland. And Shell has trimmed its refining capacity by 40% over the last 12 years.

    Since many major oil companies are looking to get rid of assets downstream, it can be tough to find buyers. That's why Conoco's spinoff makes sense, says Weiss, because it's better for shareholders to create a standalone refining company then sell downstream assets too cheaply.

Breaking up is hard to do

    As anyone who has ended a relationship will tell you, breaking up can be brutal, even when it's the right call. "The complexity of de-integrating these companies is massive." says Alan Thomson, a Houston-based senior partner at The Boston Consulting Group.

    You have to untangle shared departments, he says, such as environmental safety and finance. That's why it does not make sense for a company like Exxon to split. "ExxonMobil has always been the quintessentially integrated company," Thomson says. "They still very much manage that supply chain from crude to customer."

    Also, profit growth in refining may be slow in the U.S. and Europe, but having that ability can be an advantage in other places. "If you have aspirations in participating in China, being able to offer a full range of technologies and capabilities is still ... very attractive," Thomson says.

    As the price of oil fluctuates, as it is wont to do, oil companies will mutate to profit most. Some will shrink and split. But for others, the best course of action will be to stay big. It all depends on whether the price of oil will stay high enough to warrant the headache of breaking apart the giants. Companies that split are banking that the price of petroleum to stay high. But if there's any guaranteed uncertainty in this business, it's the price of oil.

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