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mardi 3 mars 2009

Romania to become a honey pot for energy giants ?

The International Court of Justice in The Hague has settled the dispute between Romania and Ukraine concerning the maritime border between both countries. Since considerable oil and gas reserves were discovered in the area, both countries are arguing about the border. Both countries agreed not to exploit the reserves until the dispute had been solved. The decision of the court implies that several oil giants are now free to invest in the exploration of the reserves. The reserves are estimated at more than 100 billion cubic metres gas and over 10 million tonnes of crude oil. Companies such as Shell, British Petroleum (BP), Marathon Oil Corporation and LukOil have shown interest over the course of time in leasing blocs in the area.

The court awarded 80% of the area to Romania, which represents 9,700 square kilometres. In the short term Romania will organize tenders for the exploration of the area. Several oil and gas giants have already showed their interest in exploitation. The decision of the court comes at a very favourable time, considering the difficult economic circumstances Romania is experiencing at the moment. Exploitation can become an important catalyst of economic growth.

Fund comment
Investments in the oil and gas sector are traditionally overweighted in the portfolio of MEI – Roemenië en Bulgarije Fonds N.V. (RBF). Romania has a lot of mineral resources and this offers investment opportunities. RBF has a 6% stake in Prospectiuni, a company specialized in prospecting departments for oil and gas resources. Exploitation of the Black Sea area can become a significant boost of the company’s activities. The company’s current price-earnings ratio amounts 1.5. Recently the company appointed a new CEO and CFO. Both have extended international experience and can therefore play a significant role in the international expansion of the company.

Energy (infrastructure) offers also investment opportunities for RBF. Recent gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine, during which several EU members were shut down from Russian gas, again reiterated Western European’s dependency on Russian gas. Diversification in energy supply is therefore an important issue for the European Union. Recently Chairman of the European Commission Barroso announced its full support for the Nabucco project. The Nabucco project represents a new gas pipeline connecting the Caspian region, Middle East and Egypt with Central and Eastern Europe. A significant part of the 3,300 kilometers crosses Romanian and Bulgarian territory. For Romanian company Condmag, also part of RBF, the Nabucco project might result in a strong increase of orders. Recently the share price of Condmag has declined strongly, probably due to forced exit of a shareholder. However, the company has released strong financials last years. The current price/earnings ratio amounts less than 2, while price to book value is 0.3

Aforementioned clearly indicates the exceptional opportunities of the oil and gas sector in both countries. The fund management is of the opinion that investments in the sector are extremely important and offer a lot of opportunities. Therefore the sector will remain overweighted in the RBF portfolio.

(site MEI - 06/02/09)

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