Risks related to changes in the price of oil, natural gas, refined products and chemicals
Operating results in Eni’s Exploration & Production, Refining & Marketing and Chemical segments are affected by changes in the price of crude oil and by the impacts of movements in crude oil prices on margins of refined and petrochemical products.
Eni’s results of operations are affected by changes in international oil prices
Overall, lower oil prices have a net adverse impact on Eni’s results of operations. The effect of lower oil prices on Eni’s average realizations for produced oil is generally immediate. Furthermore, Eni’s average realizations for produced oil differ from the price of Brent crude marker primarily due to the circumstance that Eni’s production list, which also includes heavy crude qualities, has a lower American Petroleum Institute (“API”) gravity compared with Brent crude (when processed the latter allows for higher yields of valuable products compared to heavy crude qualities, hence higher market price).
The favourable impact of higher oil prices on Eni’s results of operations may be offset in part by opposite trends in margins for Eni’s downstream businesses
The impact of changes in crude oil prices on Eni’s downstream businesses, including the Gas & Power, the Refining & Marketing and the Chemicals businesses, depends upon the speed at which the prices of gas and products adjust to reflect movements in oil prices.
In the Gas & Power segment, increases in oil price represent a risk to the profitability of the Company sales as gas supplies are mainly indexed to the cost of oil and certain refined products, while selling prices are mainly benchmarked to gas spot prices quoted at continental hubs. In the current trading environment, spot prices at those hubs have ceased to track the oil prices to which Eni’s long-term supply contracts are indexed.
In addition, the Italian Authority for Electricity and Gas and other European regulatory Authorities may limit the ability of the Company to pass cost increases linked to higher oil prices onto selling prices in supplies to residential customers and small businesses as spot prices are progressively replacing oil prices in the indexation mechanism of the raw material cost in selling formulas to those customers. See “Risks in the Company’s gas business” for more information.
In the Refining & Marketing and Chemicals businesses a time lag exists between movements in oil prices and in prices of finished products.
Eni’s results of operations are affected by changes in European refining margins
Results of operations of Eni’s Refining & Marketing segment are substantially affected by changes in European refining margins which reflect changes in relative prices of crude oil and refined products. The prices of refined products depend on global and regional supply/demand balances, inventory levels, refinery operations, import/export balances and weather. Furthermore, Eni’s realized margins are also affected by relative price movements of heavy or sour crude qualities versus light or sweet crude qualities, taking into account the ability of Eni’s refineries to process complex crudes that represent a cost advantage when market prices of heavy crudes are relatively cheaper than the marker Brent price.
In each of the latest three fiscal years, Eni’s refining margins were largely unprofitable as the high cost of oil was only partially transferred to final prices of fuels pressured by weak demand, high worldwide and regional inventory levels and excess refining capacity particularly in the Mediterranean area. Furthermore, the profitability of complex cycles was impaired due to shrinking price differentials between heavy crudes versus light ones. Management does not expect any significant recovery in industry fundamentals over the short to medium term. The sector as a whole will continue to suffer from weak demand and excess capacity, while the cost of oil feedstock may continue rising and price differentials may remain compressed.
In this context, management expects that the Company’s refining margins will remain at unprofitable levels in 2014 and possibly beyond.
Eni’s results of operations are affected by changes in petrochemical margins
Eni’s margins on petrochemical products are affected by trends in demand for petrochemical products and movements in crude oil prices to which purchase costs of petroleum-based feedstock are indexed. Given the commoditized nature of Eni petrochemical products, it is difficult for the Company to transfer higher purchase costs for oil-based feedstock to selling prices to customers. In each of the latest three fiscal years, Eni’s petrochemicals business reported operating losses due to unprofitable margins on basic petrochemicals products, mainly the margin on cracker, reflecting high oil-based feedstock costs and as demand for petrochemicals commodities plunged due to the economic downturn. A weak demand outlook and rising oil-based feedstock costs are expected to continue to adversely affect Eni’s results of operations and liquidity in this business segment in 2014 and possibly beyond.