The decision by Abu Dhabi fund International Petroleum Investment Company (Ipic) to review its plans for five refinery projects worth more than $20bn in total shows that it is taking a long view on its investments.
During the credit boom of 2004-2007, the region’s sovereign wealth funds, holding companies and investment companies fell over themselves to spend the cash with which they seemed to be awash.
Despite the rhetoric, of investing carefully to make the best use of each country’s resources, many of the deals cut during the period were later shown to be poor at best, disastrous at worst.
In late 2009, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority tried to renegotiate a 2007 deal with the US’ Citigroup, which would see it buy 236 million shares in the bank at $31.83 per share over the next two years. Shares were trading at $3.50 at the time.
By contrast, Ipic, which principally invests in oil and petrochemicals projects abroad, made $2bn from the sale of shares in the UK bank Barclays in June 2009. It continued to spend during the recession, snapping up some bargains along the way, including Canadian petrochemicals producer Nova Chemicals, which it bought for $2m.
At the same time, it quietly put its plans for new refineries in Pakistan, Morocco and Fujairah on ice, as refining margins collapsed along with demand for oil and fuel products.
Now Ipic is reassessing those plans. It is commissioning new feasibility studies including market surveys and construction costs. It wants to move on new investments in Oman and Jordan – once studies have been completed.
This is the perfect time to reassess the viability of these projects, rather than rushing in to spend on them. Once Ipic has full possession of their viability, it can carefully plan its strategy for the next decade.