Oil, oil, and more oil


April 2, 2019

Today, Zuck wants to rewrite the net, but first…
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ExxonMobil investors ask the company to disclose its greenhouse emissions targets

The Church of England and the New York public pension fund are urging ExxonMobil to reveal its goals for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.

The 2 entities, which are among Exxon’s largest investors, have filed a resolution for consideration at Exxon’s yearly meeting in May.

Of course, the oil giant has asked the SEC to throw it out

The pending resolution, which was initially proposed in December, calls for Exxon to disclose its short-, medium- and long-term goals for slashing greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris climate agreement.

Surprise, surprise, Exxon argued via letter that the SEC should omit the resolution, citing the proposal’s vagueness and intent to micromanage corporate affairs.

According to Axios, the SEC will most likely grant Exxon’s request, since the commission allowed Devon Energy to exclude almost an identical resolution last month — it too pulled the autonomy card. 

If anyone can make it happen, it’s these 2 vigilante investors

The Church of England and New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli (who manages the New York fund) have been successful emissions watchdogs in the past.

In 2017, the dynamic duo urged Exxon to disclose the risks climate regulations pose to its bottom line (Exxon issued the report last year). The church has also worked to persuade other fossil-fuel giants like BP and Shell to take action on climate change as well. 

This time, other investors are on board: A group representing roughly 10% of the entire world’s investment dollars — that’s $9.5T of managed assets — sent a letter last month to the SEC supporting the resolution.

Investors to the rescue

As the US government defers to President Trump on all things climate change, investors are taking it upon themselves to keep publicly traded companies honest when it comes to their carbon footprint.

Resolutions brought to the table by shareholders are more symbolic than anything. But, companies usually budge if they get more than 50% support from investors during the proposal voting process.

Got smog?
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The great herring scare: The lobster business is on a roll, but profits could soon dry up

The lobster industry is boiling hot thanks to a healthy population of the coveted coastal crustaceans —  and an even healthier appetite among claw-craving customers.

But despite the booming business, the industry is stuck in an unexpected trap: Regulators imposed a strict limit on this year’s haul of herring (the bait used to lure lobsters), leaving lobstermen high and dry.

The lobster business is on a roll

Starting around 2012, lobster fishers started pulling in record-breaking hauls that were 6x larger than lobster hauls were in the 1980s (thanks, in part, to warming coastal waters and declining fish schools).

Lobsterpalooza hit an all-time peak in 2016 when the industry brought in a record-breaking $670m harvest. 

But as lobster levels have increased, herring availability has declined: As recently as 2014, the herring haul was 200m pounds. But thanks to new fish protections, this year’s catch will be less than 40m pounds.

Now, herring and lobster are in the same boat

Metaphorically, that is — losing the little fish poses a big problem for lobster-trappers because it raises the cost of bait. 

For now, lobster fishers will use other types of less common fish and frozen herring to keep surf and turf on the menu — but those limited supplies will only last so long, and prices are bound to increase.

» Fish upon a star

Oil giant Saudi Aramco released its 2018 financials and, uh, they struck it rich

For decades, the Saudi Arabian government has kept the earnings of Saudi Aramco far out of arm’s reach. But yesterday the gargantuan oil company opened its books to reveal that it generated… wait for it… $111.1B in net income for 2018.

For context, it dwarfed Shell, its closest competitor in the oil space, by $87.2B, and earned more tickle than J.P. Morgan Chase, Alphabet, Facebook, and ExxonMobil combined — easily making Saudi Aramco the world’s most profitable company (sorry, Tim Apple). 

The larger the oil field, the cheaper the costs

Saudi Arabia is home to the largest oil fields in the world (including Ghawar, which stretches 120 miles) — a luxury that helps companies like Aramco produce oil at a massive discount.

Last year, Aramco produced an average of 13.6B barrels per day — more than 3x that of ExxonMobil. 

Now, the company has released its numbers as it prepares for a $15B bond sale, which the company plans to use to finance almost a $70B stake in Saudi Arabia’s petrochemical company.

A giant at the mercy of the black gold

Despite its staggering earnings, Saudi Aramco’s zip-tied relations to the SA government keep investors concerned.

According to Rehan Akbar, a senior credit officer at Moody’s, “The [Saudi Arabian] government’s budget is highly reliant upon contributions from Aramco in the form of royalties, taxes and dividends.”

And the country’s dependence on the oil market as a whole has proven to be a major headwind for a company like Saudi Aramco. In 2016 (when oil prices were way down), the company reported only $13.3B in net income. 

» Oil aboard

Zuckerberg makes the first move in his chess match with regulators

In a Saturday op-ed in The Washington Post, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg declared “the internet needs new rules,” and, ever so kindly, offered some suggestions. 

The manifesto — which reversed several previous positions — was meant to outmaneuver regulators and give Facebook power to decide how it gets regulated (not everyone was pleased).

If Zuck has to play by the rules, he would also like to write them

After renewed calls for regulation of big tech, Zuckerberg recognized the inevitability — and decided he might as well do the regulating himself.

Over the weekend, Zuckerberg suggested 4 areas in need of regulation: harmful content, election integrity, privacy, and data portability — all things that Facebook has struggled with firsthand.

Yesterday, FB positioned itself as a champion of a regulated net by lifting the hood of its mysterious News Feed and hinting at plans to pay publishers for the rights to distribute “high quality” news content.

Will the people fall for the ol’ ‘Zuck and roll’?

Reactions were mixed. Regulators didn’t appreciate the self-regulation: “I don’t think it’s ultimately for Mark Zuckerberg to decide how much regulation Mark Zuckerberg is prepared to accept,” Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told Bloomberg.

But the markets, on the other hand, did favor the framework: Facebook stock rose over the weekend after the op-ed was published and then again on Monday, closing up 1.2%.

The stakes for Zucko’s latest gambit are high: With the 2020 election looming, Facebook stares down not just the threat of bad publicity but also a good ol’ trust-bustin’ breakup if antitrust criticisms continue.

» Sometimes you just gotta Zuck and pray
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