A turbulent trip across the US: storms, oil announcements and Trump(ed)

“This week, an old fashioned US round trip, flying some 21,500 kilometers, took me via New York to Houston and Baton Rouge on to San Francisco, then via Houston and back to Amsterdam via New York. With so many connecting flights, it’s an invitation to miss one, and indeed, I got stuck in Houston, where the Saudi oil minister had just finished his speech on reducing oil production. So I had some time to reflect on the week.”

And it was bad news for US (shale) producers. The powerful Saudi minister Ali Ibrahim al-Naimi told the audience that further efficiencies should be found in order to make shale investments profitable during times when oil prices are low, instead of just cutting production. Oil and gas experts were quick to warn for a bloodbath amongst smaller (US) producers who need higher prices in order to survive as their production costs are too high. On average, US productions costs are around 36 dollar, while in Saudi they can produce below 10 dollar…

Jeroen Plag

 

A blog by Jeroen Plag, head of Client Coverage Americas, Asia & UK, ING, on a business trip in the US.

 

Early heavy-hitting thunderstorms across the Louisiana coastline claimed lives and caused widespread damage. Watching the local news we learned that the tornados had actually passed just 100 kilometers from where we had our meetings in Baton Rouge. Driving through the area, you could still see reconstruction taking place, following hurricane Katrina that hit the region more than 10 years ago. 

The resources debate, global population increases and the ongoing climate changes, like El Niño causing massive droughts across southern Africa, were leading topics that we discussed with our clients across Houston and Silicon Valley. We were also keen to see where we can assist with circular economy developments, supporting our clients in their transition towards sustainability. These changes require new business models, where assets are being re-used instead of consumed, ultimately impacting financing. 

Green bonds are gaining in popularity as there are more and more issuers looking at the product. Although they are not (yet) a cheaper way to finance compared to regular bonds, the topic was widely discussed. Questions around proper distribution of proceeds towards sustainable investments were debated, while lower volatility and a broader diversified investor base are the clear benefits of issuing green. 

Hitting a high during the Republican debate again was The Donald, who swooped to his next victory in Nevada, with double the votes of his two closest rivals, Rubio and Cruz. He is extending his lead as the front runner for the Republican presidential nomination. However, after talking to taxi drivers across the country, it became clear that the voters in NYC and San Francisco do not represent the majority of US voters and that his supporters must be in the other 48 states! But let’s see what Super Tuesday tells us…

On a personal note, I was able to count to 36 states! During a friendly local dinner, I was challenged to name as many US states as possible. Apparently, having lived in New York and memorising them together with our then 3-year old son during breakfast on his colourful US states placemat, worked. I was quite pleased with my score. And as the bet was to produce more than 30, dinner is on the host next time! Trumped them…

Follow me: @jeroenplag