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ATO Australian tax treatment for options trades 🇦🇺
I am posting this as I hope it will help other Australian options traders trading in US options with their tax treatment for ATO (Australian Tax Office) purposes. The ATO provides very little guidance on tax treatment for options trading and I had to do a lot of digging to get to this point. I welcome any feedback on this post.
The Deloitte Report from 2011
My initial research led me to this comprehensive Deloitte report from 2011 which is hosted on the ASX website. I've been through this document about 20 times and although it's a great report to understand how different scenarios apply, it's still really hard to find out what's changed since 2011. I am mainly relating myself to the scenario of being an individual and non-sole trader (no business set up) for my trading. I think this will apply to many others here too. According to that document, there isn't much guidance on what happens when you're an options premium seller and close positions before they expire. Note that the ATO sometimes uses the term "ETO" (Exchange Traded Option) to discuss what we're talking about here with options trading. Also note: The ATO discusses the separate Capital Gains Tax ("CGT") events that occur in each scenario in some of their documents. A CGT event will then determine what tax treatment gets applied if you don't know much about capital gains in Australia.
ATO Request for Advice
Since the Deloitte report didn't answer my questions, I eventually ended up contacting the ATO with a request for advice and tried to explain my scenario: I'm an Australian resident for tax purposes,I'm trading with tastyworks in $USD, I'm primarily a premium seller and I don't have it set up with any business/company/trust etc. In effect, I have a rough idea that I'm looking at capital gains tax but I wanted to fully understand how it worked. Initially the ATO respondent didn't understand what I was talking about when I said that I was selling a position first and buying it to close. According to the laws, there is no example of this given anywhere because it is always assumed in ATO examples that you buy a position and sell it. Why? I have no idea. I sent a follow up request with even more detail to the ATO. I think (hope) they understood what I meant now after explaining what an options premium seller is!
First, I have to consider translating my $USD to Australian dollars. How do we treat that? FX Translation If the premium from selling the options contract is received in $USD, do I convert it to $AUD on that day it is received? ATO response:
Subsection 960-50(6), Item 5 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 (ITAA 1997) states the amount should be translated at the time of the transaction or event for the purposes of the Capital Gains Tax provisions. For the purpose of granting an option to an entity, the time of the event is when you grant the option (subsection 104-20(2) ITAA 1997).
This is a very detailed response which even refers to the level of which section in the law it is coming from. I now know that I need to translate my trades from $USD to $AUD according to the RBA's translation rates for every single trade. But what about gains or losses on translation? There is one major rule that overrides FX gains and losses after digging deeper. The ATO has a "$250k balance election". This will probably apply to a lot of people trading in balances below $250k a lot of the FX rules don't apply. It states:
However, the $250,000 balance election broadly enables you to disregard certain foreign currency gains and losses on certain foreign currency denominated bank accounts and credit card accounts (called qualifying forex accounts) with balances below a specified limit.
Therefore, I'm all good disregarding FX gains and losses! I just need to ensure I translate my trades on the day they occurred. It's a bit of extra admin to do unfortunately, but it is what it is.
This is the scenario where we SELL a position first, collect premium, and close the position by making an opposite BUY order. Selling a naked PUT, for example. What happens when you open the position? ATO Response:
The option is grantedCGT event D2 happens when a taxpayer grants an option. The time of the event is when the option is granted. The capital gain or loss arising is the difference between the capital proceeds and the expenditure incurred to grant the option.
This seems straight forward. We collect premium and record a capital gain. What happens when you close the position? ATO Response:
Closing out an optionThe establishment of an ETO contract is referred to as opening a position (ASX Explanatory Booklet 'Understanding Options Trading'). A person who writes (sells) a call or put option may close out their position by taking (buying) an identical call or put option in the same series. This is referred to as the close-out of an option or the closing-out of an opening position. CGT event C2 happens when a taxpayer's ownership of an intangible CGT asset ends. Paragraph 104-25(1)(a) of the ITAA 1997 provides that ownership of an intangible CGT asset ends by cancellation, surrender, or release or similar means. CGT event C2 therefore happens to a taxpayer when their position under an ETO is closed out where the close-out results in the cancellation, release or discharge of the ETO. Under subsection 104-25(3) of the ITAA 1997 you make a capital gain from CGT event C2 if the capital proceeds from the ending are more than the assets cost base. You make a capital loss if those capital proceeds are less than the assets reduced cost base. Both CGT events (being D2 upon granting the option and C2 upon adopting the close out position) must be accounted for if applicable to a situation.
My take on this is that the BUY position that cancels out your SELL position will most often simply realise a capital loss (the entire portion of your BUY position). In effect, it 'cancels out' your original premium sold, but it's not recorded that way, it's recorded as two separate CGT events - your capital gain from CGT event D2 (SELL position), then, your capital loss from CGT event C2 (BUY position) is also recorded.In effect, they net each other out, but you don't record them as a 'netted out' number-you record them separately. From what I understand, if you were trading as a sole tradecompany then you would record them as a netted out capital gain or loss, because the trades would be classified as trading stock but not in our case here as an individual person trading options. The example I've written below should hopefully make that clearer. EXAMPLE: Trade on 1 July 2020: Open position
SELL -1 SPY 85 PUT, exp 30 August 2020
Collect Premium USD$1 per unit, and brokerage USD$5
= USD$100 premium collected, minus USD$5
= Net amount of USD$95 collected
FX Translation rate on the date of the trade: AUD $1.00 = $USD 0.70
Net Premium Collected in $AUD
= USD$95 x (1/.7)
CGT Event D2 triggered and a capital gain of $135.71 is recorded
Trade on 15 July 2020: Close position
BUY 1 SPY 85 PUT, exp 30 August 2020
Pay Premium $0.50 per unit, and brokerage $5
= $50 premium paid, plus $5
= Net amount of USD$55 paid
FX Translation rate on the date of the trade: AUD $1.00 = $USD 0.60
Net Premium Collected in $AUD
= USD$55 x (1/.6)
CGT Event C2 triggered and a capital loss of $91.66 is recorded
We can see from this simple example that even though you made a gain on those trades, you still have to record the transactions separately, as first a gain, then as a loss. Note that it is not just a matter of netting off the value of the net profit collected and converting the profit to $AUD because the exchange rate will be different on the date of the opening trade and on the date of the closing trade we have to record them separately. What if you don't close the position and the options are exercised? ATO Response:
The option is granted and then the option is exercisedUnder subsection 104-40(5) of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 (ITAA 1997) the capital gain or loss from the CGT event D2 is disregarded if the option is exercised. Subsection 134-1(1), item 1, of the ITAA 1997 refers to the consequences for the grantor of the exercise of the option. Where the option binds the grantor to dispose of a CGT asset section 116-65 of the ITAA 1997 applies to the transaction. Subsection 116-65(2) of the ITAA 1997 provides that the capital proceeds from the grant or disposal of the shares (CGT asset) include any payment received for granting the option. The disposal of the shares is a CGT event A1 which occurs under subsection 104-10(3) of the ITAA 1997 when the contract for disposal is entered into. You would still make a capital gain at the happening of the CGT event D2 in the year the event occurs (the time the option is granted). That capital gain is disregarded when the option is exercised. Where the option is exercised in the subsequent tax year, the CGT event D2 gain is disregarded at that point. An amendment may be necessary to remove the gain previously included in taxable income for the year in which the CGT event D2 occurred.
This scenario is pretty unlikely - for me personally I never hold positions to expiration, but it is nice to know what happens with the tax treatment if it ultimately does come to that.
What about the scenario when you want to BUY some options first, then SELL that position and close it later? Buying a CALL, for example. This case is what the ATO originally thought my request was about before I clarified with them. They stated:
When you buy an ETO, you acquire an asset (the ETO) for the amount paid for it (that is, the premium) plus any additional costs such as brokerage fees and the Australian Clearing House (ACH) fee. These costs together form the cost base of the ETO (section 109-5 of the ITAA 1997). On the close out of the position, you make a capital gain or loss equal to the difference between the cost base of the ETO and the amount received on its expiry or termination (subsection 104-25(3) of the ITAA 1997). The capital gain or loss is calculated on each parcel of options.
So it seems it is far easier to record debit trades for tax purposes. It is easier for the tax office to see that you open a position by buying it, and close it by selling it. And in that case you net off the total after selling it. This is very similar to a trading shares and the CGT treatment is in effect very similar (the main difference is that it is not coming under CGT event A1 because there is no asset to dispose of, like in a shares or property trade).
Other ATO Info (FYI)
The ATO also referred me to the following documents. They relate to some 'decisions' that they made from super funds but the same principles apply to individuals they said.
The ATO’s Interpretative Decision in relation to the tax treatment of premiums payable and receivable for exchange traded options can be found on the links below. Please note that the interpretative decisions below are in relation to self-managed superannuation funds but the same principles would apply in your situation [as an individual taxpayer, not as a super fund].
Key quote from this decision: CGT Event D2will apply on the writing of an ETO by the Fund. The Fund as grantor of the option will make a capital gain (or loss) of the difference between the capital proceeds (that is, the premium receivable) and the cost of granting the option (for example, brokerage fees) at the time the option is granted
My take on this is that you will realise a capital gain on issuing of the selling position. I don't see how you could realise a capital loss in that scenario? Or maybe if you sell a position and the brokerage is so high that it outweighs the premium received (a dumb trade) then that would be a capital loss (a rare scenario).
Key quote from decision: When the Fund opens a position by buying an ETO, no immediate taxation consequences arise.CGT Event C2will happen to the Fund when its position under an ETO is closed out where the close-out results in the cancellation, release or discharge of the ETO
Don't forget to declare your trades on your tax return and keep a nice spreadsheet
Keep track of the exchange rates for each day you make a trade. You could do as you go and check the RBA exchange rates website for the daily number, or just do it all at once at the end of the financial year
Finally - I recommend ensuring that you save a portion of your income to pay the capital gains tax at the end of the year so you don't have to withdraw it from your portfolio and pay exchange rate fees to convert it back to Australian dollars. It will depend on your marginal tax rate what that percentage will work out to be in the end.
The million dollar question – Why Consider Options Trading
With so many alternative ways of investing in markets, these days, working out which is right for you, can be more challenging than ever. While some areas, such as CFD’s have become fashionable, as we all know, fashion lasts just a season at best! Options, however, are now approaching their 40th Anniversary on the Australian Stock Market – they aren’t fashion, they are style, and real style never dates!
What are some of the key benefits of trading options?
More than any single investment vehicle, options provide flexibility. By that, I mean you can have the potential to profit from a whole range of market conditions – Up, Down, Sideways, Extremely Volatile, not volatile and frankly, no other investment vehicle can offer this kind of opportunity, period! Options can be used to manage risk, or to protect and hedge, or to generate income, or to exploit market moves for leveraged capital gain, or to profit from no move in the market – again – no other investment vehicle is able to offer this!! Perhaps most importantly, for many, they bring leverage to the table in what is a potentially far safer way than other instruments. Specifically, with instruments such as Forex, Margin Lending, CFDs or Futures, it is possible to lose more money than you put down. In other words you become the victim of a margin call. With a bought option this is simply not possible – you cannot lose more than you put in.
What about security?
Options are what is known as an Exchange Traded Instrument or ETO for short. This means that all trades are cleared out through a regulated exchange, be that the ASX in Australia, or in the US, the Nasdaq for example. By trading through an exchange there is an enormous safety net. That safety net is zero counterparty risk. Because all trades are cleared through an exchange, a process called Novation means that if the other person or broking firm on the other side of the transaction is unable to settle, fails financial or has no money, your position is guaranteed by the Exchange themselves, who stand behind the trade. While you may not necessarily appreciate the significance of this, it is huge! By contrast, trading on CFDs or Forex are Over The Counter or OTC products where, as an investor, you are not protected by the Exchange, to effectively guarantee the other side of the trade. In short, if the counterparty fails, you lose your money… Trust me, in today’s market this is critically important and hence why we love Options.
Are there risks with Options trading?
Yes there are but in the majority of cases, these risks can be mitigated. Specifically there are strategies that are lower risk, and others that are higher. As a result, learning which strategies best fit for you and your circumstances, is an important and often missed step. For example, “Naked” or “Sold only” positions in the options market can be extremely risky, hence we encourage our clients to avoid these like the plague! That is of course, until they have built up a good level of expertise. Instead, we far prefer lower risk strategies that have the ability to more consistently offer a steady return.
Can I trade stocks in my home country while I am travelling ?
Im a stock trader and I live in Turkey (Im a citizen). I use a brokerage firm in Turkey to trade in the Turkish stock market. We don't have capital gains tax on stocks, which is a really nice thing I would like to keep enjoying. (I think also applies to Turkish citizens living abroad) After(?) corona virus I would like to travel, especially around Europe and USA but open to SEA, Far East Asia and New Zealand (i hate bugs so absolutely no Australia). (I know I should talk to an accountant/lawyer, I will eventually) 1)Can I trade stocks through my brokerage firm while travelling with tourist visa? If yes, will the countries I travel tax me? 2)Can I trade in foreign markets (both countries I travel and not) through a foreign brokerage firm while travelling with a tourist visa? If yes, would I get taxed from brokerage firms country, my home country Turkey or my vacation country? 3)Can I trade forex? Same questions. Also 4)Same tax questions but with a seasonal jobs visa?
IMPORTANT: OVER 75% OF PEOPLE LOSE MONEY WITH CFD TRADING. IF YOU'RE A NOOB, DON'T EVEN THINK OF OPENING A CFD ACCOUNT. TRY MAKING CONSISTENT MONEY SWING TRADING ASX STONKS FIRST. THEN KEEP DOING THAT UNTIL YOU GET BORED AND WANT TO LOSE BIG MONEY VERY QUICKLY. ONLY THEN YOU MAY HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO TRADE WITH LEVERAGE. You most likely don't have my discipline and pain tolerance. Or my feel for risk/reward math. On top of this you need markets to play nice and a bit of luck. I'm no wiz, but I know my strengths and weaknesses. I smell a good setup and prepare accordingly. Hope you all nail your big opportunity when it shows up. If not, that's okay too. You'll keep getting chances. Be patient. Focus on small wins. Plus there's far more important things in life than being loaded. ------ How I lost 5k trading CFDs then turned it around Back in April, I was playing with CFDs and nearly blew up my account. Started with $5k and dropped to almost zero because trading forex with leverage is a very stupid game. This is why IG gives you a demo account. But instead of using the demo account to learn how not to fuck up massively, I was using it to place giant YOLO shorts on US markets. By being a bit less retarded on the forex trades I clawed back some losses then topped up the account with another $2.5k before starting to open small positions in gold. From 3 to 10 contracts depending on how confident I felt. Then smelling a massive opportunity, I ramped up the leverage by going with much larger positions. Day 5 https://preview.redd.it/oqd955abwak51.png?width=1080&format=png&auto=webp&s=84aa309284c22117630899e39b8b1bfb89c670f3 Entering the silver trade It was only after making decent profits in gold that I dared venture into silver. I wanted to enter silver around $18 but missed the boat after waiting too long for a dip. $20 was still great. Tons of upside left. Silver is one nasty motherfucker to trade. It's a much smaller market than gold so the swings can be wild. Silver will play along nicely then suddenly fuck you really hard. If you use too much leverage you're basically waiting for your account to blow up. Stop losses will save you, but they can also kill your best trades. I didn't bother with stops for most of the ride because I'm an ASX_bets retard but also because I had ultra high conviction in the $25-27 price target. Started with 25 contracts. I very nearly missed out on this mini pump. Some might call it luck. Day 18 https://preview.redd.it/de8jozlexak51.png?width=1080&format=png&auto=webp&s=79d174c67a86754c7d9fd78aa594f88282c08834 Adding to my silver positions Increased my position size once I had a profit buffer to protect against sharp drops. It's WAY easier to blow up a CFD account than it appears. When trades are going well you feel like you can keep adding leverage and make millions. But even small swings will kill you if your positions are too big. Discipline is key. Buying 50 contracts in silver is not the same as 50 contracts in gold because silver moves are 2-4 times bigger. When gold moves 100 points, expect a 200-400 points move in silver. Having an equal mix of gold an silver contracts helped lower the overall volatility of my account. Anything over 10 contracts in silver is big. You can lose hundreds within minutes. Buy 50 contracts, the price drops $1 and you're $5000 in the hole. I knew when to push and when to hold back. This was EXTREMELY important. I did not get greedy. I was happy to let price moves do most of the lifting. Started the day with 3k profits. Went to bed that night with big beautiful bhags. 17k https://preview.redd.it/qcbeoxvnxak51.png?width=1080&format=png&auto=webp&s=4228593b9d86cc5f0460f44af06c7292ea644625 Day 19 Woke up the next morning with even bigger bhags. 30k https://preview.redd.it/9b439y5qxak51.png?width=1080&format=png&auto=webp&s=19e3ad27d7237bc88fdeb329ebcd113e11349554 Day 24 More pump. I added 50 silver contracts that day after a decent drop. Profits now up to around 41k. Held through the big swings... Like a proper bitch, Silver dropped another 5% soon after I added those 50 contracts and my 41k profit became 20k very suddenly. But no stop loss and I held firmly. What's a 21k drop when you've been down 35k on BBOZ before. Metals bounced back hard later that evening. Still not selling. High conviction made all the difference here. Five days later and I was up to 50k profit. At that point, I felt safe enough to add another 50 contracts. https://preview.redd.it/j2at0n95zck51.png?width=1080&format=png&auto=webp&s=4a0ea2fabe6a245807fb9ee8a8d0bc4ce854ba3a And it paid off BIG Both gold and silver keep pumping. Profit now 86k. Day 28 https://preview.redd.it/f3pz0an8zck51.png?width=1080&format=png&auto=webp&s=0ca765b6cad423786dee33a1366c70d324e39b8d Why sell now? Not selling yet. GV's silver target was $25-27 so I was confident holding through some wild swings. GV = Gold Ventures https://twitter.com/thelastdegree A turbo chad from Belgium who made a massive fortune trading options during 2008-2011 when silver went from $9 to $50 before crashing hard. GV is a certified wizard when it comes to timing the gold and silver cycles. Started with his wife's 32k savings and is now worth 18 million EUR or USD, I'm not sure and who cares. GV is pretty low key but commands plenty of respect from other metal traders on Twitter. Meanwhile GV was on holiday but still shitting money. https://preview.redd.it/ixsxwjx30dk51.png?width=1080&format=png&auto=webp&s=9fd5741634a7a5b0f913f5ea12edf05722f9fddf GV also has a junior miner portfolio worth several millions. I believe it's true. I went deep into his Twitter history. He was buying heavily into the March crash and some of his picks like AbraPlata have since made 10x. Junior miners are like call options on metal prices with no expiry date but you still need to pick winners and enteexit at the right time. Magical Six Figure Milestone Not long after... BOOM! Hit 100k in profit. When starting, I knew there was potentially 40k-50k to be made from this setup even without playing it perfectly. I would have been okay with 20k. Day 32 https://preview.redd.it/oy8sqsgz1dk51.png?width=1080&format=png&auto=webp&s=a8c628670578b81d72b9a41bd9d2307a27a2fbf7 Start taking profits Silver was still going strong but I felt it was time to de-risk. So I started taking profits on both gold and silver around that time. https://preview.redd.it/gvdqs67a2dk51.png?width=1080&format=png&auto=webp&s=64a77d3ccca86fe6e29eb43e0c2eaf096f68867c Okay I'm out The way silver kept pumping, I knew a big correction was imminent. By 12pm I was completely out with over 110k profit. Home and dry. I went on with my daily work routine, a bit more relaxed and not checking charts every 5 minutes. And then metals dumped hard. There was money to be made on the short side but there was also a strong possibility of shorts being squeezed. So I didn't bother. https://preview.redd.it/opoio79i2dk51.png?width=1080&format=png&auto=webp&s=80187384d37e03eec8d01814248bbe4c5a48cc4f After the dump, I had no appetite to get back in with big positions. In hindsight I could have made tons more if I held to $29 but the ride from $24 to $29 is far more risky than $20 to $26. I'm quite okay with my 40x performance. Plus I needed to reset mentally after this rocket ride. More often than not, the best thing to do after a huge trading win is to take a break. Wisdom gained from the BBOZ days :) Withdrew my initial capital and 90% of the profits from IG. Left around 6k on the account to keep playing. https://preview.redd.it/1djdhz1m2dk51.jpg?width=1080&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=c028a06d4e0cf73bfb80f8ac48dd18e333b791d4 Feels good to have extra funds to invest with but I also need to set some aside for the monster tax bill next year. You're welcome Australia, and all the JobSeekeJobKeeper leeches. Hey everyone, check out my insane stats! That 85% win rate though...
https://preview.redd.it/gp18bjnlabr41.jpg?width=768&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=6054e7f52e8d52da403016139ae43e0e799abf15 Download PDF of this article here:https://docdro.id/6eLgUPo In light of the recent fall in oil prices due to the Saudi-Russian dispute and dampening demand for oil due to the lockdowns implemented globally, O&G stocks have taken a severe beating, falling approximately 50% from their highs at the beginning of the year. Not spared from this onslaught is Hibiscus Petroleum Berhad (Hibiscus), a listed oil and gas (O&G) exploration and production (E&P) company. Why invest in O&G stocks in this particularly uncertain period? For one, valuations of these stocks have fallen to multi-year lows, bringing the potential ROI on these stocks to attractive levels. Oil prices are cyclical, and are bound to return to the mean given a sufficiently long time horizon. The trick is to find those companies who can survive through this downturn and emerge into “normal” profitability once oil prices rebound. In this article, I will explore the upsides and downsides of investing in Hibiscus. I will do my best to cater this report to newcomers to the O&G industry – rather than address exclusively experts and veterans of the O&G sector. As an equity analyst, I aim to provide a view on the company primarily, and will generally refrain from providing macro views on oil or opinions about secular trends of the sector. I hope you enjoy reading it! Stock code: 5199.KL Stock name: Hibiscus Petroleum Berhad Financial information and financial reports: https://www.malaysiastock.biz/Corporate-Infomation.aspx?securityCode=5199 Company website: https://www.hibiscuspetroleum.com/
Hibiscus Petroleum Berhad (5199.KL) is an oil and gas (O&G) upstream exploration and production (E&P) company located in Malaysia. As an E&P company, their business can be basically described as: · looking for oil, · drawing it out of the ground, and · selling it on global oil markets. This means Hibiscus’s profits are particularly exposed to fluctuating oil prices. With oil prices falling to sub-$30 from about $60 at the beginning of the year, Hibiscus’s stock price has also fallen by about 50% YTD – from around RM 1.00 to RM 0.45 (as of 5 April 2020). https://preview.redd.it/3dqc4jraabr41.png?width=641&format=png&auto=webp&s=7ba0e8614c4e9d781edfc670016a874b90560684 https://preview.redd.it/lvdkrf0cabr41.png?width=356&format=png&auto=webp&s=46f250a713887b06986932fa475dc59c7c28582e While the company is domiciled in Malaysia, its two main oil producing fields are located in both Malaysia and the UK. The Malaysian oil field is commonly referred to as the North Sabah field, while the UK oil field is commonly referred to as the Anasuria oil field. Hibiscus has licenses to other oil fields in different parts of the world, notably the Marigold/Sunflower oil fields in the UK and the VIC cluster in Australia, but its revenues and profits mainly stem from the former two oil producing fields. Given that it’s a small player and has only two primary producing oil fields, it’s not surprising that Hibiscus sells its oil to a concentrated pool of customers, with 2 of them representing 80% of its revenues (i.e. Petronas and BP). Fortunately, both these customers are oil supermajors, and are unlikely to default on their obligations despite low oil prices. At RM 0.45 per share, the market capitalization is RM 714.7m and it has a trailing PE ratio of about 5x. It doesn’t carry any debt, and it hasn’t paid a dividend in its listing history. The MD, Mr. Kenneth Gerard Pereira, owns about 10% of the company’s outstanding shares.
Reserves (Total recoverable oil) & Production (bbl/day)
To begin analyzing the company, it’s necessary to understand a little of the industry jargon. We’ll start with Reserves and Production. In general, there are three types of categories for a company’s recoverable oil volumes – Reserves, Contingent Resources and Prospective Resources. Reserves are those oil fields which are “commercial”, which is defined as below: As defined by the SPE PRMS,Reservesare “… quantities of petroleum anticipated to be commercially recoverable by application of development projects to known accumulations from a given date forward under defined conditions.” Therefore, Reserves must be discovered (by drilling, recoverable (with current technology), remaining in the subsurface (at the effective date of the evaluation) and “commercial” based on the development project proposed.) Note that Reserves are associated with development projects. To be considered as “commercial”, there must be a firm intention to proceed with the project in a reasonable time frame (typically 5 years, and such intention must be based upon all of the following criteria:) - A reasonable assessment of the future economics of the development project meeting defined investment and operating criteria;- A reasonable expectation that there will be a market for all or at least the expected sales quantities of production required to justify development;- Evidence that the necessary production and transportation facilities are available or can be made available; and- Evidence that legal, contractual, environmental and other social and economic concerns will allow for the actual implementation of the recovery project being evaluated. Contingent Resources and Prospective Resources are further defined as below: -Contingent Resources: potentially recoverable volumes associated with a development plan that targets discovered volumes but is not (yet commercial (as defined above); and)-Prospective Resources: potentially recoverable volumes associated with a development plan that targets as yet undiscovered volumes. In the industry lingo, we generally refer to Reserves as ‘P’ and Contingent Resources as ‘C’. These ‘P’ and ‘C’ resources can be further categorized into 1P/2P/3P resources and 1C/2C/3C resources, each referring to a low/medium/high estimate of the company’s potential recoverable oil volumes: - Low/1C/1P estimate: there should be reasonable certainty that volumes actually recovered will equal or exceed the estimate;- Best/2C/2P estimate: there should be an equal likelihood of the actual volumes of petroleum being larger or smaller than the estimate; and- High/3C/3P estimate: there is a low probability that the estimate will be exceeded. Hence in the E&P industry, it is easy to see why most investors and analysts refer to the 2P estimate as the best estimate for a company’s actual recoverable oil volumes. This is because 2P reserves (‘2P’ referring to ‘Proved and Probable’) are a middle estimate of the recoverable oil volumes legally recognized as “commercial”. However, there’s nothing stopping you from including 2C resources (riskier) or utilizing 1P resources (conservative) as your estimate for total recoverable oil volumes, depending on your risk appetite. In this instance, the company has provided a snapshot of its 2P and 2C resources in its analyst presentation: https://preview.redd.it/o8qejdyc8br41.png?width=710&format=png&auto=webp&s=b3ab9be8f83badf0206adc982feda3a558d43e78 Basically, what the company is saying here is that by 2021, it will have classified as 2P reserves at least 23.7 million bbl from its Anasuria field and 20.5 million bbl from its North Sabah field – for total 2P reserves of 44.2 million bbl (we are ignoring the Australian VIC cluster as it is only estimated to reach first oil by 2022). Furthermore, the company is stating that they have discovered (but not yet legally classified as “commercial”) a further 71 million bbl of oil from both the Anasuria and North Sabah fields, as well as the Marigold/Sunflower fields. If we include these 2C resources, the total potential recoverable oil volumes could exceed 100 million bbl. In this report, we shall explore all valuation scenarios giving consideration to both 2P and 2C resources. https://preview.redd.it/gk54qplf8br41.png?width=489&format=png&auto=webp&s=c905b7a6328432218b5b9dfd53cc9ef1390bd604 The company further targets a 2021 production rate of 20,000 bbl (LTM: 8,000 bbl), which includes 5,000 bbl from its Anasuria field (LTM: 2,500 bbl) and 7,000 bbl from its North Sabah field (LTM: 5,300 bbl). This is a substantial increase in forecasted production from both existing and prospective oil fields. If it materializes, annual production rate could be as high as 7,300 mmbbl, and 2021 revenues (given FY20 USD/bbl of $60) could exceed RM 1.5 billion (FY20: RM 988 million). However, this targeted forecast is quite a stretch from current production levels. Nevertheless, we shall consider all provided information in estimating a valuation for Hibiscus. To understand Hibiscus’s oil production capacity and forecast its revenues and profits, we need to have a better appreciation of the performance of its two main cash-generating assets – the North Sabah field and the Anasuria field. North Sabah oil field https://preview.redd.it/62nssexj8br41.png?width=1003&format=png&auto=webp&s=cd78f86d51165fb9a93015e49496f7f98dad64dd Hibiscus owns a 50% interest in the North Sabah field together with its partner Petronas, and has production rights over the field up to year 2040. The asset contains 4 oil fields, namely the St Joseph field, South Furious field, SF 30 field and Barton field. For the sake of brevity, we shall not delve deep into the operational aspects of the fields or the contractual nature of its production sharing contract (PSC). We’ll just focus on the factors which relate to its financial performance. These are: · Average uptime · Total oil sold · Average realized oil price · Average OPEX per bbl With regards to average uptime, we can see that the company maintains relative high facility availability, exceeding 90% uptime in all quarters of the LTM with exception of Jul-Sep 2019. The dip in average uptime was due to production enhancement projects and maintenance activities undertaken to improve the production capacity of the St Joseph and SF30 oil fields. Hence, we can conclude that management has a good handle on operational performance. It also implies that there is little room for further improvement in production resulting from increased uptime. As North Sabah is under a production sharing contract (PSC), there is a distinction between gross oil production and net oil production. The former relates to total oil drawn out of the ground, whereas the latter refers to Hibiscus’s share of oil production after taxes, royalties and expenses are accounted for. In this case, we want to pay attention to net oil production, not gross. We can arrive at Hibiscus’s total oil sold for the last twelve months (LTM) by adding up the total oil sold for each of the last 4 quarters. Summing up the figures yields total oil sold for the LTM of approximately 2,075,305 bbl. Then, we can arrive at an average realized oil price over the LTM by averaging the average realized oil price for the last 4 quarters, giving us an average realized oil price over the LTM of USD 68.57/bbl. We can do the same for average OPEX per bbl, giving us an average OPEX per bbl over the LTM of USD 13.23/bbl. Thus, we can sum up the above financial performance of the North Sabah field with the following figures: · Total oil sold: 2,075,305 bbl · Average realized oil price: USD 68.57/bbl · Average OPEX per bbl: USD 13.23/bbl Anasuria oil field https://preview.redd.it/586u4kfo8br41.png?width=1038&format=png&auto=webp&s=7580fc7f7df7e948754d025745a5cf47d4393c0f Doing the same exercise as above for the Anasuria field, we arrive at the following financial performance for the Anasuria field: · Total oil sold: 1,073,304 bbl · Average realized oil price: USD 63.57/bbl · Average OPEX per bbl: USD 23.22/bbl As gas production is relatively immaterial, and to be conservative, we shall only consider the crude oil production from the Anasuria field in forecasting revenues.
Valuation (Method 1)
Putting the figures from both oil fields together, we get the following data: https://preview.redd.it/7y6064dq8br41.png?width=700&format=png&auto=webp&s=2a4120563a011cf61fc6090e1cd5932602599dc2 Given that we have determined LTM EBITDA of RM 632m, the next step would be to subtract ITDA (interest, tax, depreciation & amortization) from it to obtain estimated LTM Net Profit. Using FY2020’s ITDA of approximately RM 318m as a guideline, we arrive at an estimated LTM Net Profit of RM 314m (FY20: 230m). Given the current market capitalization of RM 714.7m, this implies a trailing LTM PE of 2.3x. Performing a sensitivity analysis given different oil prices, we arrive at the following net profit table for the company under different oil price scenarios, assuming oil production rate and ITDA remain constant: https://preview.redd.it/xixge5sr8br41.png?width=433&format=png&auto=webp&s=288a00f6e5088d01936f0217ae7798d2cfcf11f2 From the above exercise, it becomes apparent that Hibiscus has a breakeven oil price of about USD 41.8863/bbl, and has a lot of operating leverage given the exponential rate of increase in its Net Profit with each consequent increase in oil prices. Considering that the oil production rate (EBITDA) is likely to increase faster than ITDA’s proportion to revenues (fixed costs), at an implied PE of 4.33x, it seems likely that an investment in Hibiscus will be profitable over the next 10 years (with the assumption that oil prices will revert to the mean in the long-term).
Valuation (Method 2)
Of course, there are a lot of assumptions behind the above method of valuation. Hence, it would be prudent to perform multiple methods of valuation and compare the figures to one another. As opposed to the profit/loss assessment in Valuation (Method 1), another way of performing a valuation would be to estimate its balance sheet value, i.e. total revenues from 2P Reserves, and assign a reasonable margin to it. https://preview.redd.it/o2eiss6u8br41.png?width=710&format=png&auto=webp&s=03960cce698d9cedb076f3d5f571b3c59d908fa8 From the above, we understand that Hibiscus’s 2P reserves from the North Sabah and Anasuria fields alone are approximately 44.2 mmbbl (we ignore contribution from Australia’s VIC cluster as it hasn’t been developed yet). Doing a similar sensitivity analysis of different oil prices as above, we arrive at the following estimated total revenues and accumulated net profit: https://preview.redd.it/h8hubrmw8br41.png?width=450&format=png&auto=webp&s=6d23f0f9c3dafda89e758b815072ba335467f33e Let’s assume that the above average of RM 9.68 billion in total realizable revenues from current 2P reserves holds true. If we assign a conservative Net Profit margin of 15% (FY20: 23%; past 5 years average: 16%), we arrive at estimated accumulated Net Profit from 2P Reserves ofRM 1.452 billion. Given the current market capitalization of RM 714 million, we might be able to say that the equity is worth about twice the current share price. However, it is understandable that some readers might feel that the figures used in the above estimate (e.g. net profit margin of 15%) were randomly plucked from the sky. So how do we reconcile them with figures from the financial statements? Fortunately, there appears to be a way to do just that. Intangible Assets I refer you to a figure in the financial statements which provides a shortcut to the valuation of 2P Reserves. This is the carrying value of Intangible Assets on the Balance Sheet. As of 2QFY21, that amount was RM 1,468,860,000 (i.e. RM 1.468 billion). https://preview.redd.it/hse8ttb09br41.png?width=881&format=png&auto=webp&s=82e48b5961c905fe9273cb6346368de60202ebec Quite coincidentally, one might observe that this figure is dangerously close to the estimated accumulated Net Profit from 2P Reserves of RM 1.452 billion we calculated earlier. But why would this amount matter at all? To answer that, I refer you to the notes of the Annual Report FY20 (AR20). On page 148 of the AR20, we find the following two paragraphs: E&E assets comprise of rights and concession and conventional studies. Following the acquisition of a concession right to explore a licensed area, the costs incurred such as geological and geophysical surveys, drilling, commercial appraisal costs and other directly attributable costs of exploration and appraisal including technical and administrative costs, are capitalised as conventional studies, presented as intangible assets. E&E assets are assessed for impairment when facts and circumstances suggest that the carrying amount of an E&E asset may exceed its recoverable amount. The Group will allocate E&E assets to cash generating unit (“CGU”s or groups of CGUs for the purpose of assessing such assets for impairment. Each CGU or group of units to which an E&E asset is allocated will not be larger than an operating segment as disclosed in Note 39 to the financial statements.) Hence, we can determine that firstly, the intangible asset value represents capitalized costs of acquisition of the oil fields, including technical exploration costs and costs of acquiring the relevant licenses. Secondly, an impairment review will be carried out when “the carrying amount of an E&E asset may exceed its recoverable amount”, with E&E assets being allocated to “cash generating units” (CGU) for the purposes of assessment. On page 169 of the AR20, we find the following: Carrying amounts of the Group’s intangible assets, oil and gas assets and FPSO are reviewed for possible impairment annually including any indicators of impairment. For the purpose of assessing impairment, assets are grouped at the lowest level CGUs for which there is a separately identifiable cash flow available. These CGUs are based on operating areas, represented by the 2011 North Sabah EOR PSC (“North Sabah”, the Anasuria Cluster, the Marigold and Sunflower fields, the VIC/P57 exploration permit (“VIC/P57”) and the VIC/L31 production license (“VIC/L31”).) So apparently, the CGUs that have been assigned refer to the respective oil producing fields, two of which include the North Sabah field and the Anasuria field. In order to perform the impairment review, estimates of future cash flow will be made by management to assess the “recoverable amount” (as described above), subject to assumptions and an appropriate discount rate. Hence, what we can gather up to now is that management will estimate future recoverable cash flows from a CGU (i.e. the North Sabah and Anasuria oil fields), compare that to their carrying value, and perform an impairment if their future recoverable cash flows are less than their carrying value. In other words, if estimated accumulated profits from the North Sabah and Anasuria oil fields are less than their carrying value, an impairment is required. So where do we find the carrying values for the North Sabah and Anasuria oil fields? Further down on page 184 in the AR20, we see the following: Included in rights and concession are the carrying amounts of producing field licenses in the Anasuria Cluster amounting to RM668,211,518 (2018: RM687,664,530, producing field licenses in North Sabah amounting to RM471,031,008 (2018: RM414,333,116)) Hence, we can determine that the carrying values for the North Sabah and Anasuria oil fields are RM 471m and RM 668m respectively. But where do we find the future recoverable cash flows of the fields as estimated by management, and what are the assumptions used in that calculation? Fortunately, we find just that on page 185: 17 INTANGIBLE ASSETS (CONTINUED) (a Anasuria Cluster) The Directors have concluded that there is no impairment indicator for Anasuria Cluster during the current financial year. In the previous financial year, due to uncertainties in crude oil prices, the Group has assessed the recoverable amount of the intangible assets, oil and gas assets and FPSO relating to the Anasuria Cluster. The recoverable amount is determined using the FVLCTS model based on discounted cash flows (“DCF” derived from the expected cash in/outflow pattern over the production lives.) The key assumptions used to determine the recoverable amount for the Anasuria Cluster were as follows: (i Discount rate of 10%;) (ii Future cost inflation factor of 2% per annum;) (iii Oil price forecast based on the oil price forward curve from independent parties; and,) (iv Oil production profile based on the assessment by independent oil and gas reserve experts.) Based on the assessments performed, the Directors concluded that the recoverable amount calculated based on the valuation model is higher than the carrying amount. (b North Sabah) The acquisition of the North Sabah assets was completed in the previous financial year. Details of the acquisition are as disclosed in Note 15 to the financial statements. The Directors have concluded that there is no impairment indicator for North Sabah during the current financial year. Here, we can see that the recoverable amount of the Anasuria field was estimated based on a DCF of expected future cash flows over the production life of the asset. The key assumptions used by management all seem appropriate, including a discount rate of 10% and oil price and oil production estimates based on independent assessment. From there, management concludes that the recoverable amount of the Anasuria field is higher than its carrying amount (i.e. no impairment required). Likewise, for the North Sabah field. How do we interpret this? Basically, what management is saying is that given a 10% discount rate and independent oil price and oil production estimates, the accumulated profits (i.e. recoverable amount) from both the North Sabah and the Anasuria fields exceed their carrying amounts of RM 471m and RM 668m respectively. In other words, according to management’s own estimates, the carrying value of the Intangible Assets of RM 1.468 billionapproximates the accumulated Net Profit recoverable from 2P reserves. To conclude Valuation (Method 2), we arrive at the following:
Accumulated Net Profit from 2P Reserves
RM 1.452 billion
RM 1.468 billion
By now, we have established the basic economics of Hibiscus’s business, including its revenues (i.e. oil production and oil price scenarios), costs (OPEX, ITDA), profitability (breakeven, future earnings potential) and balance sheet value (2P reserves, valuation). Moving on, we want to gain a deeper understanding of the 3 statements to anticipate any blind spots and risks. We’ll refer to the financial statements of both the FY20 annual report and the 2Q21 quarterly report in this analysis. For the sake of brevity, I’ll only point out those line items which need extra attention, and skip over the rest. Feel free to go through the financial statements on your own to gain a better familiarity of the business. https://preview.redd.it/h689bss79br41.png?width=810&format=png&auto=webp&s=ed47fce6a5c3815dd3d4f819e31f1ce39ccf4a0b Income Statement First, we’ll start with the Income Statement on page 135 of the AR20. Revenues are straightforward, as we’ve discussed above. Cost of Sales and Administrative Expenses fall under the jurisdiction of OPEX, which we’ve also seen earlier. Other Expenses are mostly made up of Depreciation & Amortization of RM 115m. Finance Costs are where things start to get tricky. Why does a company which carries no debt have such huge amounts of finance costs? The reason can be found in Note 8, where it is revealed that the bulk of finance costs relate to the unwinding of discount of provision for decommissioning costs of RM 25m (Note 32). https://preview.redd.it/4omjptbe9br41.png?width=1019&format=png&auto=webp&s=eaabfc824134063100afa62edfd36a34a680fb60 This actually refers to the expected future costs of restoring the Anasuria and North Sabah fields to their original condition once the oil reserves have been depleted. Accounting standards require the company to provide for these decommissioning costs as they are estimable and probable. The way the decommissioning costs are accounted for is the same as an amortized loan, where the initial carrying value is recognized as a liability and the discount rate applied is reversed each year as an expense on the Income Statement. However, these expenses are largely non-cash in nature and do not necessitate a cash outflow every year (FY20: RM 69m). Unwinding of discount on non-current other payables of RM 12m relate to contractual payments to the North Sabah sellers. We will discuss it later. Taxation is another tricky subject, and is even more significant than Finance Costs at RM 161m. In gist, Hibiscus is subject to the 38% PITA (Petroleum Income Tax Act) under Malaysian jurisdiction, and the 30% Petroleum tax + 10% Supplementary tax under UK jurisdiction. Of the RM 161m, RM 41m of it relates to deferred tax which originates from the difference between tax treatment and accounting treatment on capitalized assets (accelerated depreciation vs straight-line depreciation). Nonetheless, what you should take away from this is that the tax expense is a tangible expense and material to breakeven analysis. Fortunately, tax is a variable expense, and should not materially impact the cash flow of Hibiscus in today’s low oil price environment. Note: Cash outflows for Tax Paid in FY20 was RM 97m, substantially below the RM 161m tax expense. https://preview.redd.it/1xrnwzm89br41.png?width=732&format=png&auto=webp&s=c078bc3e18d9c79d9a6fbe1187803612753f69d8 Balance Sheet The balance sheet of Hibiscus is unexciting; I’ll just bring your attention to those line items which need additional scrutiny. I’ll use the figures in the latest 2Q21 quarterly report (2Q21) and refer to the notes in AR20 for clarity. We’ve already discussed Intangible Assets in the section above, so I won’t dwell on it again. Moving on, the company has Equipment of RM 582m, largely relating to O&G assets (e.g. the Anasuria FPSO vessel and CAPEX incurred on production enhancement projects). Restricted cash and bank balances represent contractual obligations for decommissioning costs of the Anasuria Cluster, and are inaccessible for use in operations. Inventories are relatively low, despite Hibiscus being an E&P company, so forex fluctuations on carrying value of inventories are relatively immaterial. Trade receivables largely relate to entitlements from Petronas and BP (both oil supermajors), and are hence quite safe from impairment. Other receivables, deposits and prepayments are significant as they relate to security deposits placed with sellers of the oil fields acquired; these should be ignored for cash flow purposes. Note: Total cash and bank balances do not include approximately RM 105 m proceeds from the North Sabah December 2019 offtake (which was received in January 2020) Cash and bank balances of RM 90m do not include RM 105m of proceeds from offtake received in 3Q21 (Jan 2020). Hence, the actual cash and bank balances as of 2Q21 approximate RM 200m. Liabilities are a little more interesting. First, I’ll draw your attention to the significant Deferred tax liabilities of RM 457m. These largely relate to the amortization of CAPEX (i.e. Equipment and capitalized E&E expenses), which is given an accelerated depreciation treatment for tax purposes. The way this works is that the government gives Hibiscus a favorable tax treatment on capital expenditures incurred via an accelerated depreciation schedule, so that the taxable income is less than usual. However, this leads to the taxable depreciation being utilized quicker than accounting depreciation, hence the tax payable merely deferred to a later period – when the tax depreciation runs out but accounting depreciation remains. Given the capital intensive nature of the business, it is understandable why Deferred tax liabilities are so large. We’ve discussed Provision for decommissioning costs under the Finance Costs section earlier. They are also quite significant at RM 266m. Notably, the Other Payables and Accruals are a hefty RM 431m. What do they relate to? Basically, they are contractual obligations to the sellers of the oil fields which are only payable upon oil prices reaching certain thresholds. Hence, while they are current in nature, they will only become payable when oil prices recover to previous highs, and are hence not an immediate cash outflow concern given today’s low oil prices. Cash Flow Statement There is nothing in the cash flow statement which warrants concern. Notably, the company generated OCF of approximately RM 500m in FY20 and RM 116m in 2Q21. It further incurred RM 330m and RM 234m of CAPEX in FY20 and 2Q21 respectively, largely owing to production enhancement projects to increase the production rate of the Anasuria and North Sabah fields, which according to management estimates are accretive to ROI. Tax paid was RM 97m in FY20 and RM 61m in 2Q21 (tax expense: RM 161m and RM 62m respectively).
There are a few obvious and not-so-obvious risks that one should be aware of before investing in Hibiscus. We shall not consider operational risks (e.g. uptime, OPEX) as they are outside the jurisdiction of the equity analyst. Instead, we shall focus on the financial and strategic risks largely outside the control of management. The main ones are: · Oil prices remaining subdued for long periods of time · Fluctuation of exchange rates · Customer concentration risk · 2P Reserves being less than estimated · Significant current and non-current liabilities · Potential issuance of equity Oil prices remaining subdued Of topmost concern in the minds of most analysts is whether Hibiscus has the wherewithal to sustain itself through this period of low oil prices (sub-$30). A quick and dirty estimate of annual cash outflow (i.e. burn rate) assuming a $20 oil world and historical production rates is between RM 50m-70m per year, which considering the RM 200m cash balance implies about 3-4 years of sustainability before the company runs out of cash and has to rely on external assistance for financing. Table 1: Hibiscus EBITDA at different oil price and exchange rates https://preview.redd.it/gxnekd6h9br41.png?width=670&format=png&auto=webp&s=edbfb9621a43480d11e3b49de79f61a6337b3d51 The above table shows different EBITDA scenarios (RM ‘m) given different oil prices (left column) and USD:MYR exchange rates (top row). Currently, oil prices are $27 and USD:MYR is 1:4.36. Given conservative assumptions of average OPEX/bbl of $20 (current: $15), we can safely say that the company will be loss-making as long as oil remains at $20 or below (red). However, we can see that once oil prices hit $25, the company can tank the lower-end estimate of the annual burn rate of RM 50m (orange), while at RM $27 it can sufficiently muddle through the higher-end estimate of the annual burn rate of RM 70m (green). Hence, we can assume that as long as the average oil price over the next 3-4 years remains above $25, Hibiscus should come out of this fine without the need for any external financing. Customer Concentration Risk With regards to customer concentration risk, there is not much the analyst or investor can do except to accept the risk. Fortunately, 80% of revenues can be attributed to two oil supermajors (Petronas and BP), hence the risk of default on contractual obligations and trade receivables seems to be quite diminished. 2P Reserves being less than estimated 2P Reserves being less than estimated is another risk that one should keep in mind. Fortunately, the current market cap is merely RM 714m – at half of estimated recoverable amounts of RM 1.468 billion – so there’s a decent margin of safety. In addition, there are other mitigating factors which shall be discussed in the next section (‘Opportunities’). Significant non-current and current liabilities The significant non-current and current liabilities have been addressed in the previous section. It has been determined that they pose no threat to immediate cash flow due to them being long-term in nature (e.g. decommissioning costs, deferred tax, etc). Hence, for the purpose of assessing going concern, their amounts should not be a cause for concern. Potential issuance of equity Finally, we come to the possibility of external financing being required in this low oil price environment. While the company should last 3-4 years on existing cash reserves, there is always the risk of other black swan events materializing (e.g. coronavirus) or simply oil prices remaining muted for longer than 4 years. Furthermore, management has hinted that they wish to acquire new oil assets at presently depressed prices to increase daily production rate to a targeted 20,000 bbl by end-2021. They have room to acquire debt, but they may also wish to issue equity for this purpose. Hence, the possibility of dilution to existing shareholders cannot be entirely ruled out. However, given management’s historical track record of prioritizing ROI and optimal capital allocation, and in consideration of the fact that the MD owns 10% of outstanding shares, there is some assurance that any potential acquisitions will be accretive to EPS and therefore valuations.
As with the existence of risk, the presence of material opportunities also looms over the company. Some of them are discussed below: · Increased Daily Oil Production Rate · Inclusion of 2C Resources · Future oil prices exceeding $50 and effects from coronavirus dissipating Increased Daily Oil Production Rate The first and most obvious opportunity is the potential for increased production rate. We’ve seen in the last quarter (2Q21) that the North Sabah field increased its daily production rate by approximately 20% as a result of production enhancement projects (infill drilling), lowering OPEX/bbl as a result. To vastly oversimplify, infill drilling is the process of maximizing well density by drilling in the spaces between existing wells to improve oil production. The same improvements are being undertaken at the Anasuria field via infill drilling, subsea debottlenecking, water injection and sidetracking of existing wells. Without boring you with industry jargon, this basically means future production rate is likely to improve going forward. By how much can the oil production rate be improved by? Management estimates in their analyst presentation that enhancements in the Anasuria field will be able to yield 5,000 bbl/day by 2021 (current: 2,500 bbl/day). Similarly, improvements in the North Sabah field is expected to yield 7,000 bbl/day by 2021 (current: 5,300 bbl/day). This implies a total 2021 expected daily production rate from the two fields alone of 12,000 bbl/day (current: 8,000 bbl/day). That’s a 50% increase in yields which we haven’t factored into our valuation yet. Furthermore, we haven’t considered any production from existing 2C resources (e.g. Marigold/Sunflower) or any potential acquisitions which may occur in the future. By management estimates, this can potentially increase production by another 8,000 bbl/day, bringing total production to 20,000 bbl/day. While this seems like a stretch of the imagination, it pays to keep them in mind when forecasting future revenues and valuations. Just to play around with the numbers, I’ve come up with a sensitivity analysis of possible annual EBITDA at different oil prices and daily oil production rates: Table 2: Hibiscus EBITDA at different oil price and daily oil production rates https://preview.redd.it/jnpfhr5n9br41.png?width=814&format=png&auto=webp&s=bbe4b512bc17f576d87529651140cc74cde3d159 The left column represents different oil prices while the top row represents different daily oil production rates. The green column represents EBITDA at current daily production rate of 8,000 bbl/day; the orange column represents EBITDA at targeted daily production rate of 12,000 bbl/day; while the purple column represents EBITDA at maximum daily production rate of 20,000 bbl/day. Even conservatively assuming increased estimated annual ITDA of RM 500m (FY20: RM 318m), and long-term average oil prices of $50 (FY20: $60), the estimated Net Profit and P/E ratio is potentially lucrative at daily oil production rates of 12,000 bbl/day and above. 2C Resources Since we’re on the topic of improved daily oil production rate, it bears to pay in mind the relatively enormous potential from Hibiscus’s 2C Resources. North Sabah’s 2C Resources alone exceed 30 mmbbl; while those from the yet undiagnosed Marigold/Sunflower fields also reach 30 mmbbl. Altogether, 2C Resources exceed 70 mmbbl, which dwarfs the 44 mmbbl of 2P Reserves we have considered up to this point in our valuation estimates. To refresh your memory, 2C Resources represents oil volumes which have been discovered but are not yet classified as “commercial”. This means that there is reasonable certainty of the oil being recoverable, as opposed to simply being in the very early stages of exploration. So, to be conservative, we will imagine that only 50% of 2C Resources are eligible for reclassification to 2P reserves, i.e. 35 mmbbl of oil. https://preview.redd.it/mto11iz7abr41.png?width=375&format=png&auto=webp&s=e9028ab0816b3d3e25067447f2c70acd3ebfc41a This additional 35 mmbbl of oil represents an 80% increase to existing 2P reserves. Assuming the daily oil production rate increases similarly by 80%, we will arrive at 14,400 bbl/day of oil production. According to Table 2 above, this would yield an EBITDA of roughly RM 630m assuming $50 oil. Comparing that estimated EBITDA to FY20’s actual EBITDA:
FY21 (incl. 2C)
Daily oil production (bbl/day)
Average oil price (USD/bbl)
Average OPEX/bbl (USD)
EBITDA (RM ‘m)
Hence, even conservatively assuming lower oil prices and higher OPEX/bbl (which should decrease in the presence of higher oil volumes) than last year, we get approximately the same EBITDA as FY20. For the sake of completeness, let’s assume that Hibiscus issues twice the no. of existing shares over the next 10 years, effectively diluting shareholders by 50%. Even without accounting for the possibility of the acquisition of new oil fields, at the current market capitalization of RM 714m, the prospective P/E would be about 10x. Not too shabby. Future oil prices exceeding $50 and effects from coronavirus dissipating Hibiscus shares have recently been hit by a one-two punch from oil prices cratering from $60 to $30, as a result of both the Saudi-Russian dispute and depressed demand for oil due to coronavirus. This has massively increased supply and at the same time hugely depressed demand for oil (due to the globally coordinated lockdowns being implemented). Given a long enough timeframe, I fully expect OPEC+ to come to an agreement and the economic effects from the coronavirus to dissipate, allowing oil prices to rebound. As we equity investors are aware, oil prices are cyclical and are bound to recover over the next 10 years. When it does, valuations of O&G stocks (including Hibiscus’s) are likely to improve as investors overshoot expectations and begin to forecast higher oil prices into perpetuity, as they always tend to do in good times. When that time arrives, Hibiscus’s valuations are likely to become overoptimistic as all O&G stocks tend to do during oil upcycles, resulting in valuations far exceeding reasonable estimates of future earnings. If you can hold the shares up until then, it’s likely you will make much more on your investment than what we’ve been estimating.
Wrapping up what we’ve discussed so far, we can conclude that Hibiscus’s market capitalization of RM 714m far undershoots reasonable estimates of fair value even under conservative assumptions of recoverable oil volumes and long-term average oil prices. As a value investor, I hesitate to assign a target share price, but it’s safe to say that this stock is worth at least RM 1.00 (current: RM 0.45). Risk is relatively contained and the upside far exceeds the downside. While I have no opinion on the short-term trajectory of oil prices, I can safely recommend this stock as a long-term Buy based on fundamental research.
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The coronavirus has changed everything. When analysts gave forecasts for 2020 at the end of last year, no one could foresee that the whole world would be seized by the pandemic. Call it a “black swan” or not, it’s necessary to re-evaluate the situation and adjust the medium- and the long-term outlook. Below you will find the analysis of the main Forex drivers and the overview of the prospects for the key commodities.
In 2019, economists had some fears of a potential US recession. Well, they were right not only about the USA, but also about the whole world as lockdowns pushed every country to the deep downturn. Now it’s clear that earlier the view was naturally more optimistic. How encouraging the US unemployment rate and NFP were at the end of 2019! We couldn’t imagine at that time that more than 33 million Americans would lose jobs and economic activity would fall to unprecedented lows. The Fed made a dire scenario for the prolonged US recession. All the needed measures have been taken, almost 3 trillion dollars were provided to support the market and additional aids are expected. Anyway, the US dollar gains as a safe-haven currency. The collapse of USD this year remains highly unlikely.
Central banks’ monetary policy
In December, we expected the Federal Reserve to be patient in its monetary policy decisions. At the same time, we didn’t underestimate the power of rate cuts due to recession fears. Coronavirus outbreak flipped the script with the Federal Reserve unveiling outstanding measures to support the suffering economy. The first rate cut from 1.5-1.75% to 1-1.25% happened at the beginning of March and was followed by an even bigger rate cut to the range of 0-0.25% just after a week. At the same time, the regulator announced an unlimited buying of mortgage-backed securities and plans to buy corporate bonds and bonds backed by consumer debt. Moreover, the Fed Chair Jerome Powell didn’t exclude the possibility of negative interest rates. Even though our forecasts were not 100% accurate, the upside for the USD has been indeed limited. As for the stock market, after a shock wave caused by Covid-19, the ultra-loose monetary policy pushed the indices up. Other major central banks also joined the easing game. The Reserve banks of Australia and New Zealand cut their interest rate to unprecedented lows of 0.25%. The Bank of England and the Bank of Canada lowered their interest rate as well to 0.1% and 0.25% respectively. As for the European Central bank, it keeps the zero interest rate on hold. The supportive tool the ECB presented is the 750 billion euro Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) aimed to counter the serious risks to the outlook of the Eurozone.
As all major central banks conduct almost similar easing policy, the Forex pairs can fluctuate within certain levels for a long period. That is actually a good news for range-bound traders, as channels are expected to remain quite strong.
ECB The European Central Bank let the market know that it was aiming to do whatever it takes to save the euro area from the coronavirus damage. However, trouble always brings his brother: Germany was so tired to be the sponsor of the unlimited bond-purchasing ECB program that the German court claimed that it actually violated constitution. Now, the ECB has three months to explain that purchases were "proportionate". The ECB credibility is under threat as Germany may pull out of the next ECB's bond purchases. This situation has made euro quite volatile.
Boris Johnson hasn’t kept his promise “to get Brexit done” yet. However, we can forgive him for that as this year brings much worse problems to deal with. Now, when countries are getting over the coronavirus shock, the UK and EU should hold the last round of trade talks and finalize an agreement by the end of December. Some analysts are skeptical about that. They think the deadline could be extended beyond the end of December, leaving the UK subject to tariffs on most goods. This would be devastating for the British pound. The sooner the UK and EU make a deal, the better for GBP.
Oil prices spent last year between $50 and $70. December was positive with the US and China ceasing fire in the trade war and OPEC extending production cuts. Possibility of a scenario where prices drop to 0 and below was absolutely inconceivable even for the most pessimistic observers, and yet it came true. It marked the beginning of 2020 with historically unseen turbulence, even apart from the coronavirus hit. In the long term, however, there are all fundamentals for oil prices to get back to where they were. However, that may not happen this year. Observers predict that oil prices will recover to the levels of $55-60 if there is nothing in the way during the year. Otherwise, $30 is seen as the safest baseline level for the commodity during 2020.
Just like in 2019, the stock market had a nightmarish beginning of 2020. S&P lost 35%, with some stocks losing more than 50% of value. As the summer season is coming, the market sees 50% of the losses recovered in most sectors. While the shape of recovery is being discussed, most analysts agree that after the worst-performing Q2, the S&P will continue restoring its value. Notice that the situation is different for different stocks. Locked by the anti-virus restrictions, most of the world population was forced to spend weeks and months at home facing their TVs, laptops, and desktops. That made strong Internet-related companies blossom, so we saw Amazon and Netflix rise to even higher value than before the virus. On the contrary, the healthcare sector struggling to invent the vaccine saw Moderna, BionTech, Inovio, and other new and old pharma companies surge to unexpected heights.
IT and Internet communications companies will likely gain much more attention during the year.
Google, Nvidia, Disney, Apple, and many more around the IT and Internet sectors have the full potential to spearhead the S&P in 2020 and further on.
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Trump Didn’t Kill the Global Trade System. He Split It in Two.
This article is taken from the Wall Street Journal written about nine months ago and sits behind a a paywall, so I decided to copy and paste it here. This article explains Trump's policies toward global trade and what has actually happened so far. I think the article does a decent job of explaining the Trade War. While alot has happenedsince the article was written, I still think its relevant. However, what is lacking in the article, like many articles on the trade war, is it doesn't really explain the history of US trade policy, the laws that the US administration is using to place tariffs on China and the official justification for the US President in enacting tariffs against China. In my analysis I will cover those points.
When Trump entered the White House people feared he would dismantle the global system the US and its allies had built over the last 75 years, but he hasn't. He has realign into two systems. One between the US and its allies which looks similar to the one built since the 1980s with a few of quota and tariffs. As the article points out
Today, Korus and Nafta have been replaced by updated agreements(one not yet ratified) that look much like the originals. South Korea accepted quotas on steel. Mexico and Canada agreed to higher wages, North American content requirements and quotas for autos. Furthermore, the article points out Douglas Irwin, an economist and trade historian at Dartmouth College, calls these results the “status quo with Trumpian tweaks: a little more managed trade sprinkled about for favored industries. It’s not good, but it’s not the destruction of the system.” Mr. Trump’s actions so far affect only 12% of U.S. imports, according to Chad Bown of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. In 1984, 21% of imports were covered by similar restraints, many imposed by Mr. Reagan, such as on cars, steel, motorcycles and clothing. Protectionist instincts go so far in the US, there are strong lobby groups for both protectionist and freetrade in the US.
The second reflects a emerging rivalry between the US and China. Undo some of the integration that followed China accession to the WTO. Two questions 1) How far is the US willing to decouple with China 2) Can it persuade allies to join.
The second is going to be difficult because China's economic ties are greater than they were between the Soviets, and China isn't waging an ideological struggle. Trump lacks Reagan commitment to alliance and free trade. The status quo with China is crumbling Dan Sullivan, a Republican senator from Alaska, personifies these broader forces reshaping the U.S. approach to the world. When Mr. Xi visited the U.S. in 2015, Mr. Sullivan urged his colleagues to pay more attention to China’s rise. On the Senate floor, he quoted the political scientist Graham Allison: “War between the U.S. and China is more likely than recognized at the moment.” Last spring, Mr. Sullivan went to China and met officials including Vice President Wang Qishan. They seemed to think tensions with the U.S. will fade after Mr. Trump leaves the scene, Mr. Sullivan recalled. “I just said, ‘You are completely misreading this.’” The mistrust, he told them, is bipartisan, and will outlast Mr. Trump. both Bush II and Obama tried to change dialogue and engagement, but by the end of his term, Obama was questioning the approach. Trump has declared engagement. “We don’t like it when our allies steal our ideas either, but it’s a much less dangerous situation,” said Derek Scissors, a China expert at the American Enterprise Institute whose views align with the administration’s more hawkish officials. “We’re not worried about the war-fighting capability of Japan and Korea because they’re our friends.”
The article also points out unlike George Kennan in 1946 who made a case for containing the Soviet Union, the US hasn't explicitly made a case for containing the Soviets, Trump's administration hasn't, because as the the article explains its divided Michael Pillsbury a Hudson Institute scholar close to the Trump team, see 3 scenarios
New Cold War with drastically reduced economic ties
China resolve their tensions, integrate and run the world together
Transactional US-China relationship of the sort during the 1980s
Pillsbury thinks the third is most likely to happen, even though the administration hasn't said that it has adopted that policy. The US is stepping efforts to draw in other trading partners. The US, EU and Japan have launched a WTO effort to crack down on domestic subsidies and technology transfers requirement. US and Domestic concerns with prompted some countries to restrict Huawei. The US is also seeking to walloff China from other trade deals. However, there are risk with this strategy
Other countries like Japan and South Korea to dependent on China. Too integrated.
Raise objections to Belt and Road. But no alternative
My main criticism of this article is it tries like the vast majority of articles to fit US trade actions in the larger context of US geopolitical strategy. Even the author isn't certain "The first goes to the heart of Mr. Trump’s goal. If his aim is to hold back China’s advance, economists predict he will fail.". If you try to treat the trade "war" and US geopolitical strategy toward China as one, you will find yourself quickly frustrated and confused. If you treat them separately with their different set of stakeholders and histories, were they intersect with regards to China, but diverge. During the Cold War, trade policy toward the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc was subordinated to geopolitical concerns. For Trump, the trade issues are more important than geopolitical strategy. His protectionist trade rhetoric has been fairly consistent since 1980s. In his administration, the top cabinet members holding economic portfolios, those of Commerce, Treasury and US Trade Representative are the same people he picked when he first took office. The Director of the Economic Council has changed hands once, its role isn't as important as the National Security Advisor. While State, Defense, CIA, Homeland Security, UN Ambassador, National Security Advisor have changed hands at least once. Only the Director of National Intelligence hasn't changed. International Trade makes up 1/4 of the US economy, and like national security its primarily the responsibility of the Federal government. States in the US don't implement their own tariffs. If you add the impact of Treasury policy and how it relates to capital flows in and out of the US, the amounts easily exceed the size of the US economy. Furthermore, because of US Dollar role as the reserve currency and US control of over global system the impact of Treasury are global. Trade policy and investment flows runs through two federal departments Commerce and Treasury and for trade also USTR. Defense spending makes up 3.3% of GDP, and if you add in related homeland security its at most 4%. Why would anyone assume that these two realms be integrated let alone trade policy subordinate to whims of a national security bureaucracy in most instances? With North Korea or Iran, trade and investment subordinate themselves to national security, because to Treasury and Commerce bureaucrats and their affiliated interest groups, Iran and the DPRK are well, economic midgets, but China is a different matter. The analysis will be divided into four sections. The first will be to provide a brief overview of US trade policy since 1914. The second section will discuss why the US is going after China on trade issues, and why the US has resorted using a bilateral approach as opposed to going through the WTO. The third section we will talk about how relations with China is hashed out in the US. The reason why I submitted this article, because there aren't many post trying to explain US-China Trade War from a trade perspective. Here is a post titled "What is the Reasons for America's Trade War with China, and not one person mentioned Article 301 or China's WTO Commitments. You get numerous post saying that Huawei is at heart of the trade war. Its fine, but if you don't know what was inside the USTR Investigative report that lead to the tariffs. its like skipping dinner and only having dessert When the US President, Donald J Trump, says he wants to negotiate a better trade deal with other countries, and has been going on about for the last 35 years, longer than many of you have been alive, why do people think that the key issues with China aren't primarily about trade at the moment.
OVERVIEW OF THE UNITED STATES TRADE ORIENTATION
Before 1940s, the US could be categorized as a free market protectionist economy. For many this may seem like oxymoron, how can an economy be free market and protectionist? In 1913, government spending made up about 7.5% of US GDP, in the UK it was 13%, and for Germany 18% (Public Spending in the 20th Century A Global Perspective: Ludger Schuknecht and Vito Tanzi - 2000). UK had virtual zero tariffs, while for manufactured goods in France it was 20%, 13% Germany, 9% Belgium and 4% Netherlands. For raw materials and agricultural products, it was almost zero. In contrast, for the likes of United States, Russia and Japan it was 44%, 84% and 30% respectively. Even though in 1900 United States was an economic powerhouse along with Germany, manufactured exports only made up 30% of exports, and the US government saw tariffs as exclusively a domestic policy matter and didn't see tariffs as something to be negotiated with other nations. The US didn't have the large constituency to push the government for lower tariffs abroad for their exports like in Britain in the 1830-40s (Reluctant Partners: A History of Multilateral Trade Cooperation, 1850-2000). The Underwood Tariffs Act of 1913 which legislated the income tax, dropped the tariffs to 1850 levels levels.Until 16th amendment was ratified in 1913 making income tax legal, all US federal revenue came from excise and tariffs. In contrast before 1914, about 50% of UK revenue came from income taxes. The reason for US reluctance to introduced income tax was ideological and the United State's relative weak government compared to those in Europe. After the First World War, the US introduced the Emergency Tariff Act of 1921, than the Fordney–McCumber Tariff of 1922 followed by a Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930. Contrary to popular opinion, the Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930 had a small negative impact on the economy, since imports and exports played a small part of the US economy, and the tariffs were lower than the average that existed from 1850-1914. Immediately after the Second World War, when the US economy was the only industrialized economy left standing, the economic focus was on rehabilitation and monetary stability. There was no grandiose and ideological design. Bretton Woods system linked the US dollar to gold to create monetary stability, and to avoid competitive devaluation and tariffs that plagued the world economy after Britain took itself off the gold in 1931. The US$ was the natural choice, because in 1944 2/3 of the world's gold was in the US. One reason why the Marshall Plan was created was to alleviate the chronic deficits Europeans countries had with the US between 1945-50. It was to rebuild their economies so they could start exports good to the US. Even before it was full implemented in 1959, it was already facing problems, the trade surpluses that the US was running in the 1940s, turned to deficits as European and Japanese economies recovered. By 1959, Federal Reserves foreign liabilities had already exceeded its gold reserves. There were fears of a run on the US gold supply and arbitrage. A secondary policy of the Bretton woods system was curbs on capital outflows to reduce speculation on currency pegs, and this had a negative impact on foreign investment until it was abandoned in 1971. It wasn't until the 1980s, where foreign investment recovered to levels prior to 1914. Factoring out the big spike in global oil prices as a result of the OPEC cartel, it most likely wasn't until the mid-1990s that exports as a % of GDP had reached 1914 levels. Until the 1980s, the US record regarding free trade and markets was mediocre. The impetus to remove trade barriers in Europe after the Second World War was driven by the Europeans themselves. The EEC already had a custom union in 1968, Canada and the US have yet to even discuss implementing one. Even with Canada it took the US over 50 years to get a Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA was inspired by the success of the EEC. NAFTA was very much an elite driven project. If the Americans put the NAFTA to a referendum like the British did with the EEC in the seventies, it most likely wouldn't pass. People often look at segregation in the US South as a political issue, but it was economic issue as well. How could the US preach free trade, when it didn't have free trade in its own country. Segregation was a internal non-tariff barrier. In the first election after the end of the Cold War in 1992, Ross Perot' based most of independent run for the Presidency on opposition to NAFTA. He won 19% of the vote. Like Ross Perot before him, Donald Trump is not the exception in how America has handled tariffs since the founding of the Republic, but more the norm. The embrace of free trade by the business and political elite can be attributed to two events. After the end of Bretton Woods in 1971, a strong vested interest in the US in the form of multinationals and Wall Street emerged advocating for removal of tariffs and more importantly the removal of restrictions on free flow of capital, whether direct foreign investment in portfolio investment. However, the political class embrace of free trade and capital only really took off after the collapse of the Soviet Union propelled by Cold War triumphalism. As mentioned by the article, the US is reverting back to a pre-WTO relations with China. As Robert Lighthizer said in speech in 2000
I guess my prescription, really, is to move back to more of a negotiating kind of a settlement. Return to WTO and what it really was meant to be. Something where you have somebody make a decision but have it not be binding.
The US is using financial and legal instruments developed during the Cold War like its extradition treaties (with Canada and Europe), and Section 301. Here is a very good recent article about enforcement commitment that China will make.‘Painful’ enforcement ahead for China if trade war deal is reached with US insisting on unilateral terms NOTE: It is very difficult to talk about US-China trade war without a basic knowledge of global economic history since 1914. What a lot of people do is politicize or subordinate the economic history to the political. Some commentators think US power was just handed to them after the Second World War, when the US was the only industrialized economy left standing. The dominant position of the US was temporary and in reality its like having 10 tonnes of Gold sitting in your house, it doesn't automatically translate to influence. The US from 1945-1989 was slowly and gradually build her influence in the non-Communist world. For example, US influence in Canada in the 1960s wasn't as strong as it is now. Only 50% of Canadian exports went to the US in 1960s vs 80% at the present moment.
BASIS OF THE US TRADE DISCUSSION WITH CHINA
According to preliminary agreement between China and the US based on unnamed sources in the Wall Street Journal article US, China close in on Trade Deal. In this article it divides the deal in two sections. The first aspects have largely to do with deficits and is political.
As part of a deal, China is pledging to help level the playing field, including speeding up the timetable for removing foreign-ownership limitations on car ventures and reducing tariffs on imported vehicles to below the current auto tariff of 15%. Beijing would also step up purchases of U.S. goods—a tactic designed to appeal to President Trump, who campaigned on closing the bilateral trade deficit with China. One of the sweeteners would be an $18 billion natural-gas purchase from Cheniere Energy Inc., people familiar with the transaction said.
The second part will involve the following.
Commitment Regarding Industrial Policy
Provisions to protect IP
Mechanism which complaints by US companies can be addressed
Bilateral meetings adjudicate disputes. If talks don't produce agreement than US can raise tariffs unilaterally
China uses joint venture requirements, foreign investment restrictions, and administrative review and licensing processes to require or pressure technology transfer from U.S. companies.
China deprives U.S. companies of the ability to set market-based terms in licensing and other technology-related negotiations.
China directs and unfairly facilitates the systematic investment in, and acquisition of, U.S. companies and assets to generate large-scale technology transfer.
China conducts and supports cyber intrusions into U.S. commercial computer networks to gain unauthorized access to commercially valuable business information.
In the bigger context of trade relations between US and China, China is not honoring its WTO commitments, and the USTR issued its yearly report to Congress in early February about the status of China compliance with its WTO commitments. The points that served as a basis for applying Section 301, also deviate from her commitments as Clinton's Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky paving the way for a trade war. Barshefsky argues that China's back sliding was happening as early as 2006-07, and believes the trade war could have been avoided has those commitments been enforced by previous administrations. I will provide a brief overview of WTO membership and China's process of getting into the WTO. WTO members can be divided into two groups, first are countries that joined in 1995-97, and were members of GATT, than there are the second group that joined after 1997. China joined in 2001. There is an argument that when China joined in 2001, she faced more stringent conditions than other developing countries that joined before, because the vast majority of developing countries were members of GATT, and were admitted to the WTO based on that previous membership in GATT. Here is Brookings Institute article published in 2001 titled "Issues in China’s WTO Accession"
This question is all the more puzzling because the scope and depth of demands placed on entrants into the formal international trading system have increased substantially since the formal conclusion of the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations in 1994, which expanded the agenda considerably by covering many services, agriculture, intellectual property, and certain aspects of foreign direct investment. Since 1994, the international community has added agreements covering information technology, basic telecommunications services, and financial services. WTO membership now entails liberalization of a much broader range of domestic economic activity, including areas that traditionally have been regarded by most countries as among the most sensitive, than was required of countries entering the WTO’s predecessor organization the GATT. The terms of China’s protocol of accession to the World Trade Organization reflect the developments just described and more. China’s market access commitments are much more far-reaching than those that governed the accession of countries only a decade ago. And, as a condition for membership, China was required to make protocol commitments that substantially exceed those made by any other member of the World Trade Organization, including those that have joined since 1995. The broader and deeper commitments China has made inevitably will entail substantial short-term economic costs.
What are the WTO commitments Barshefsky goes on about? When countries join the WTO, particularly those countries that weren't members of GATT and joined after 1997, they have to work toward fulfilling certain commitments. There are 4 key documents when countries make an accession to WTO membership, the working party report, the accession protocol paper, the goods schedule and service schedule. In the working party report as part of the conclusion which specifies the commitment of each member country what they will do in areas that aren't compliant with WTO regulations on the date they joined. The problem there is no good enforcement mechanism for other members to force China to comply with these commitments. And WTO punishments are weak. Here is the commitment paragraph for China "The Working Party took note of the explanations and statements of China concerning its foreign trade regime, as reflected in this Report. The Working Party took note of the commitments given by China in relation to certain specific matters which are reproduced in paragraphs 18-19, 22-23, 35-36, 40, 42, 46-47, 49, 60, 62, 64, 68, 70, 73, 75, 78-79, 83-84, 86, 91-93, 96, 100-103, 107, 111, 115-117, 119-120, 122-123, 126-132, 136, 138, 140, 143, 145, 146, 148, 152, 154, 157, 162, 165, 167-168, 170-174, 177-178, 180, 182, 184-185, 187, 190-197, 199-200, 203-207, 210, 212-213, 215, 217, 222-223, 225, 227-228, 231-235, 238, 240-242, 252, 256, 259, 263, 265, 270, 275, 284, 286, 288, 291, 292, 296, 299, 302, 304-305, 307-310, 312-318, 320, 322, 331-334, 336, 339 and 341 of this Report and noted that these commitments are incorporated in paragraph 1.2 of the Draft Protocol. " This is a tool by the WTO that list all the WTO commitment of each country in the working paper. In the goods and service schedule they have commitments for particular sectors. Here is the a press release by the WTO in September 2001, after successfully concluding talks for accession, and brief summary of key areas in which China hasn't fulfilled her commitments. Most of the commitments made by China were made to address its legacy as a non-market economy and involvement of state owned enterprises. In my opinion, I think the US government and investors grew increasingly frustrated with China, after 2007 not just because of China's back sliding, but relative to other countries who joined after 1997 like Vietnam, another non-market Leninist dictatorship. When comparing China's commitments to the WTO its best to compare her progress with those that joined after 1997, which were mostly ex-Soviet Republics. NOTE: The Chinese media have for two decades compared any time the US has talked about China's currency manipulation or any other issue as a pretext for imposing tariffs on China to the Plaza Accords. I am very sure people will raise it here. My criticism of this view is fourfold. First, the US targeted not just Japan, but France, Britain and the UK as well. Secondly, the causes of the Japan lost decade were due largely to internal factors. Thirdly, Japan, UK, Britain and France in the 1980s, the Yuan isn't undervalued today. Lastly, in the USTR investigation, its China's practices that are the concern, not so much the trade deficit.
REASONS FOR TRUMPS UNILATERAL APPROACH
I feel that people shouldn't dismiss Trump's unilateral approach toward China for several reasons.
The multilateral approach won't work in many issues such as the trade deficit, commercial espionage and intellectual property, because US and her allies have different interest with regard to these issues. Germany and Japan and trade surpluses with China, while the US runs a deficit. In order to reach a consensus means the West has to compromise among themselves, and the end result if the type of toothless resolutions you commonly find in ASEAN regarding the SCS. Does America want to "compromise" its interest to appease a politician like Justin Trudeau? Not to mention opposition from domestic interest. TPP was opposed by both Clinton and Trump during the election.
You can't launch a geopolitical front against China using a newly formed trade block like the TPP. Some of the existing TPP members are in economic groups with China, like Malaysia and Australia.
China has joined a multitude of international bodies, and at least in trade, these bodies haven't changed its behavior.
Trump was elected to deal with China which he and his supporters believe was responsible for the loss of millions manufacturing jobs when China joined the WTO in 2001. It is estimate the US lost 6 Million jobs, about 1/4 of US manufacturing Jobs. This has been subsequently advanced by some economists. The ball got rolling when Bill Clinton decided to grant China Most Favored Nation status in 1999, just a decade after Tiananmen.
China hasn't dealt with issues like IP protection, market access, subsidies to state own companies and state funded industrial spying.
According to the survey, 39 percent of the country views China’s growing power as a “critical threat” to Americans. That ranked it only eighth among 12 potential threats listed and placed China well behind the perceived threats from international terrorism (66 percent), North Korea’s nuclear program (59 percent) and Iran’s nuclear program (52 percent). It’s also considerably lower than when the same question was asked during the 1990s, when more than half of those polled listed China as a critical threat. That broadly tracks with a recent poll from the Pew Research Center that found concern about U.S.-China economic issues had decreased since 2012.
In looking at how US conducts relations foreign policy with China, we should look at it from the three areas of most concern - economic, national security and ideology. Each sphere has their interest groups, and sometimes groups can occupy two spheres at once. Security experts are concerned with some aspects of China's economic actions like IP theft and industrial policy (China 2025), because they are related to security. In these sphere there are your hawks and dove. And each sphere is dominated by certain interest groups. That is why US policy toward China can often appear contradictory. You have Trump want to reduce the trade deficit, but security experts advocating for restrictions on dual use technology who are buttressed by people who want export restrictions on China, as a way of getting market access. Right now the economic concerns are most dominant, and the hawks seem to dominate. The economic hawks traditionally have been domestic manufacturing companies and economic nationalist. In reality the hawks aren't dominant, but the groups like US Companies with large investment in China and Wall Street are no longer defending China, and some have turned hawkish against China. These US companies are the main conduit in which China's lobby Congress, since China only spends 50% of what Taiwan spends lobbying Congress. THE ANGLO SAXON WORLD AND CHINA I don't think many Chinese even those that speak English, have a good understanding Anglo-Saxon society mindset. Anglo Saxons countries, whether US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland are commerce driven society governed by sanctity of contracts. The English great philosophical contributions to Western philosophy have primarily to do with economics and politics like Adam Smith, John Locke, David Hume and Thomas Hobbes. This contrast with the French and Germans. Politics in the UK and to a lesser extent the US, is centered around economics, while in Mainland Europe its religion. When the Americans revolted against the British Empire in 1776, the initial source of the grievances were taxes. Outside of East Asia, the rest of the World's relationship with China was largely commercial, and for United States, being an Anglosaxon country, even more so. In Southeast Asia, Chinese aren't known for high culture, but for trade and commerce. Outside Vietnam, most of Chinese loans words in Southeast Asian languages involve either food or money. The influence is akin to Yiddish in English. Some people point to the Mao and Nixon meeting as great strategic breakthrough and symbol of what great power politics should look like. The reality is that the Mao-Nixon meeting was an anomaly in the long history of relations with China and the West. Much of China-Western relations over the last 500 years was conducted by multitudes of nameless Chinese and Western traders. The period from 1949-1979 was the only period were strategic concerns triumphed trade, because China had little to offer except instability and revolution. Even in this period, China's attempt to spread revolution in Southeast Asia was a threat to Western investments and corporate interest in the region. During the nadir of both the Qing Dynasty and Republican period, China was still engaged in its traditional commercial role. Throughout much of history of their relations with China, the goals of Britain and the United States were primarily economic, IMAGINE JUST 10% OF CHINA BOUGHT MY PRODUCT From the beginning, the allure of China to Western businesses and traders has been its sheer size I. One of the points that the USTR mentions is lack of market access for US companies operating in China, while Chinese companies face much less restrictions operating in the US.
China uses joint venture requirements, foreign investment restrictions, and administrative review and licensing processes to require or pressure technology transfer from U.S. companies.
China deprives U.S. companies of the ability to set market-based terms in licensing and other technology-related negotiations.
Trade with China has hurt some American workers. And they have expressed their grievances at the ballot box. So while many attribute this shift to the Trump Administration, I do not. What we are now seeing will likely endure for some time within the American policy establishment. China is viewed—by a growing consensus—not just as a strategic challenge to the United States but as a country whose rise has come at America’s expense. In this environment, it would be helpful if the US-China relationship had more advocates. That it does not reflects another failure: In large part because China has been slow to open its economy since it joined the WTO, the American business community has turned from advocate to skeptic and even opponent of past US policies toward China. American business doesn’t want a tariff war but it does want a more aggressive approach from our government. How can it be that those who know China best, work there, do business there, make money there, and have advocated for productive relations in the past, are among those now arguing for more confrontation? The answer lies in the story of stalled competition policy, and the slow pace of opening, over nearly two decades. This has discouraged and fragmented the American business community. And it has reinforced the negative attitudinal shift among our political and expert classes. In short, even though many American businesses continue to prosper in China, a growing number of firms have given up hope that the playing field will ever be level. Some have accepted the Faustian bargain of maximizing today’s earnings per share while operating under restrictions that jeopardize their future competitiveness. But that doesn’t mean they’re happy about it. Nor does it mean they aren’t acutely aware of the risks — or thinking harder than ever before about how to diversify their risks away from, and beyond, China.
What is interesting about Paulson's speech is he spend only one sentence about displaced US workers, and a whole paragraph about US business operating in China. While Kissinger writes books about China, how much does he contribute to both Democrats and the Republicans during the election cycle? China is increasingly makING it more difficult for US companies operating and those exporting products to China.
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