The state of the resources industry is hideous.
Oil has lost 75% of its value in 18 months, the global commodity market is in the toilet, and mining companies have had more than £60 billion wiped off their market values in less than six months.
But we just got another sign that things could get even worse for companies which make their living from digging things out of the ground.
Moody’s, one of the big three credit ratings agencies, has put 175 companies working in the mining and oil sectors, including some of the biggest in the world, on what it calls a “downgrade review”.
Moody’s is taking a look at the finances of all these companies to see if they’re still worthy of their credit rating. A rating downgrade means that borrowing is more difficult and more expensive for companies.
As first reported by the Financial Times, the firm — which, along with Standard & Poors and Fitch, carry out the bulk of credit ratings — has warned that the continuing slump in the price of oil and the slowdown in Chinese growth means that things are going to get even worse for the world’s resource companies.
The price of oil has rallied in the last couple of days, but is still down 17% already in 2016, and nearly 40% since November, while other commodities are also getting routed, with the Bloomberg Commodities Index down 57% since its last peak in 2011.
“Lower oil prices will further weaken cash flows for E & P (exploration and production) companies and the upstream portion of integrated oil and gas companies. This will cause further deterioration in financial ratios, including deeper negative free cash flow,” Moody’s said on its website.
The continued oil price slump is going to make oil companies less profitable, and less able to generate revenues and raise funds.
China is the epicentre of the problem: “Slowing growth in China, which consumes and produces at least half of base metals, and is a material player in the precious metals, iron ore and metallurgical coal markets is weakening demand for these commodities and driving prices to multi-year lows,” David Staples, Moody’s Managing Director said.
“China’s outsized influence on the commodities market, coupled with the need for significant recalibration of supply to bring the industry back into balance indicates that this is not a normal cyclical downturn, but a fundamental shift that will place an unprecedented level of stress on mining companies” Staples added.
While Moody’s list is largely made up of smaller, less powerful firms, some of the world’s biggest resource companies are also at risk of a downgrade. Here are some of the biggest:
- Anglo American, the miner in the middle of a “radical” restructuring.
- Fresnillo, the FTSE-listed, Mexico based gold miner.
- Shell, which on Wednesday announced it is cutting 10,000 jobs.
- Total, the French “supermajor” oil firm.
- Statoil, the government owned Norwegian oil
- Vale, the Brazilian miner in the middle of the Samarco mine scandal.
- Alcoa, the S&P 500 listed lightweight metal producer.
- Barrick Gold, the world’s biggest gold miner.