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Downstream expansion offers potential to boost ethane prices

Power Forecast Briefing: As retirements accelerate, can renewable energy fill the gap?

2019 Credit Risk Perspectives: Is The Credit Cycle Turning? A Fundamentals View

2019 Credit Risk Perspectives: Is The Credit Cycle Turning? A Market Driven View

AVIA OTT Summit 2019 Offers Insight Into Changing OTT Roadmap


Downstream expansion offers potential to boost ethane prices

Asseaborne exports of ethane from the U.S. begin to ramp up, they will combinewith increased consumption from the petrochemical sector to soak up excessethane supplies, especially in the Northeast. Development in the downstreamindustry could tighten supply/demand dynamics and potentially offer long-termsupport to prices.

NGL production soars, exportsfollow

Shaleproduction of natural gas and natural gas liquids began increasing sharply inlate 2008 as the start of the "shale revolution" began.

Productionof natural gas liquids from gas processing plants reached a low around thattime in September 2008 at 1.51 MMbbl/d and was last reported in June at arecord 3.62 MMbbl/d, according to data from the U.S. Energy InformationAdministration. Similarly, production of the lightest NGL component, ethane,fell to 575 Mbbl/d in September 2008 and rose a similar proportion to reach arecord 1.38 MMbbl/d in June.

Whilethe rise in NGL production was initially the result of increased shale drillingfor natural gas and crude oil, it has been helped by weakening economics fordry natural gas. In the Northeast, that pushed producers to prioritize drillingin areas with large volumes of wet gas such as the wet portion of the MarcellusShale and large portions of the Utica Shale in Pennsylvania, Ohio and WestVirginia.

Oneresponse to the surge in NGL production has been to boost exports of theindividual components, with propane and butane first to react. Exports of propanewere 20 Mbbl/d in September 2008 and averaged 52.7 Mbbl/d during the full year,but have since increased to a record 894 Mbbl/d in May, according to the EIA. Asimilar trend took place in butane, where exports jumped from an average of14.6 Mbbl/d in 2008 to a record 148 Mbbl/d in May.

Exporterslater built infrastructure to accommodate exports of ethane, which haveincreased requirements for refrigeration and underground storage. Terminalsoperated by Sunoco LogisticsPartners LP and EnterpriseProducts Partners LP began operations this year.

Exportsof all NGLs increased from an average of 101 Mbbl/d in 2008 to a record 1.37MMbbl/d in May while ethane exports started from nearly zero in 2013 and roseto a record 94 Mbbl/d in May.

Theterminal operated by Sunoco Logistics in Marcus Hook, Pa., loaded itsfirst cargo on March9, with the cargo destined for the INEOSGroup Ltd. petrochemical complex in Rafnes, Norway.

OnSept. 1, Enterprise Products announcedthat its first cargo of ethane departed its new terminal in Morgan's Point,Texas. The cargo also went to the INEOS facility in Rafnes.

Petchems reacted too

Thesurge in NGL production was most conspicuous in the Northeast, where growthfrom the Marcellus far outpaced other shale plays. The resulting decline in pricesof ethane in turn helped improve the economics for petrochemical crackers.

announced June7 that it would build an ethylenecracker in Beaver County in southwestern Pennsylvania, withconstruction due to begin approximately 18 months from the announcement. Theplant is likely to consume roughly 90 Mbbl/d of ethane.

Whilethe Shell cracker will represent an outlet for excess ethane supplies, petrochemicalactivity in Sarnia, Ontario has continued to grow in recent years as well.

"Sarniahas become one of the biggest beneficiaries of Marcellus/Utica production ofethane and other natural gas liquids, the mother's milk of the petchem sector,"Housely Carr, analyst at RBN Energy, said in a note.

Carrsaid that NOVA Chemicals Corp.'sCorunna petrochemical plant near Sarnia had used naphtha as a feedstock for itsethylene, but switched some of its furnaces in 2006 to run on propane andbutane shipped from Alberta via the EnbridgeEnergy Partners LP pipeline system. Some supplies are now alsoshipped by rail from the Marcellus and Utica.

In2014, the naphtha-consuming furnaces were reconfigured to use ethane piped infrom the Marcellus and Utica via the Mariner West pipeline operated by SunocoLogistics. The pipeline entered service to take advantage of the excess supplyof ethane and is the main supplier of ethane to NOVA.

Thepipeline now operates at a rate near 50 Mbbl/d, according to Sunoco Logistics.A second pipeline, the Utopia, is under construction and will be operated byKinder Morgan Inc.sometime in 2018. It will carry ethane from the Utica and eventually to Sarniathrough other pipelines at a capacity also near 50 Mbbl/d. The second pipelinewill not only supplement quantities of ethane but is also meant to diversifysupplies to NOVA.

Thedemand for ethane in Sarnia will grow further, as NOVA will convert furnacescurrently utilizing heavier feedstocks such as propane and butane to runcompletely on ethane. The project is expected to be completed around the sametime that the Utopia pipeline enters service in 2018.

NOVAis evaluating a decision to build a polyethylene plant near the cracker, with adecision expected in 2017/18 and startup in 2022. The company has alsodiscussed a potential 50% expansion in its cracking capacity if it green lightsthe polyethylene plant.

Carrsaid the Sarnia region benefits from nearby salt-cavern storage, which is abetter storage medium for ethane because it can't easily be stored inabove-ground tanks. Abundant supplies of ethane are also beneficial because itis a preferred feedstock for ethylene production; yielding about 78% ethylene,compared to 40% to 42% ethylene from crackers fed with propane or butane and30% from naphtha-fed crackers.

"Thecity is within what you might call a petchem/marketing sweet spot, in that … itis within 500 miles of half the population of North America," Carr said. "Inother words, close to a few hundred million people who use all kinds ofethylene-based plastics and other products."

Prices could react

Ethanehas become viewed as a worthless byproduct of natural gas production in recentyears, as its value fell below that of natural gas despite having a higher Btuvalue. Excess ethane was rejected by leaving it in the natural gas stream,although producers were forced to reduce output when pipelines became saturatedwith ethane.

Pipelineshipments of ethane to the Gulf Coast began in 2014 via the ATEX Expresspipeline, with the pipeline offering capacity of 125 Mbbl/d. The Mariner Eastpipeline began shipping ethane to the East Coast in February, with SunocoLogistics saying that it would use around two-thirds of its 70 Mbbl/d capacityfor ethane and the remainder for propane. Combined with Mariner West, the threepipelines could potentially remove 220 Mbbl/d from the oversupplied ethanemarket in the Northeast in addition to the 100 Mbbl/d consumed by NOVA.

Rejectionfigures are approximated and can vary widely by estimate, but Btu levels inNortheast pipelines imply that ethane rejection is declining.

Inthe EIA's "Today in Energy" column on Sept. 22, analyst WarrenWilczewski showed that the pipeline heat content has fallen in states thatreceive gas from the Marcellus and Utica.

"Sinceearly 2016, the natural gas heat content in these states has trended downward,indicating that producers have increasingly been extracting ethane,"Wilczewski said. "The lower heat content has coincided with the start ofethane exports out of Marcus Hook, which sources all of its ethane from theMarcellus and Utica formations."

Theprice of ethane was near $2.70/MMBtu on Sept. 23 and slightly below natural gasfutures at $2.955/MMBtu, according to data from SNL Energy, an offering ofS&P Global Market Intelligence. While trading at 25.5 cents below naturalgas, it is still above the discount that it traded to natural gas of $1.48reached in December 2014. Given the extent of these projects, it may narrowfurther.

Market prices and includedindustry data are current as of the time of publication and are subject tochange. For more detailed market data, including powerand naturalgas index prices, as well as forwardsand futures,visit our Commodities Pages.


Watch: Power Forecast Briefing: As retirements accelerate, can renewable energy fill the gap?

Mar. 19 2019 — Steve Piper shares the outlook for U.S. power markets, discussing capacity retirements and whether continued development of wind and solar power plants may mitigate the generation shortfall.

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Credit Analysis
2019 Credit Risk Perspectives: Is The Credit Cycle Turning? A Fundamentals View

Mar. 15 2019 — On November 20, 2018, a joint event hosted by S&P Global Market Intelligence and S&P Global Ratings took place in London, focusing on credit risk and 2019 perspectives.

Pascal Hartwig, Credit Product Specialist, and I provided a review of the latest trends observed across non-financial corporate firms through the lens of S&P Global Market Intelligence’s statistical models.1 In particular, Pascal focused on the outputs produced by a statistical model that uses market information to estimate credit risk of public companies; if you want to know more, you can visit here.

I focused on an analysis of how different Brexit scenarios may impact the credit risk of European Union (EU) private companies that are included on S&P Capital IQ platform.

Before, this, I looked at the evolution of their credit risk profile from 2013 to 2017, as shown in Figure 1. Scores were generated via Credit Analytics’ PD Model Fundamentals Private, a statistical model that uses company financials and other socio-economic factors to estimate the PD of private companies globally. Credit scores are mapped to PD values, which are based on/derived from S&P Global Ratings Observed Default Rates.

Figure 1: EU private company scores generated by PD Model Fundamentals Private, between 2013 and 2017.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence.2 As of October 2018.

For any given year, the distribution of credit scores of EU private companies is concentrated below the ‘a’ level, due to the large number of small revenue and unrated firms on the S&P Capital IQ platform. An overall improvement of the risk profile is visible, with the score distribution moving leftwards between 2013 and 2017. A similar picture is visible when comparing companies by country or industry sector,3 confirming that there were no clear signs of a turning point in the credit cycle of private companies in any EU country or industry sector. However, this view is backward looking and does not take into account the potential effects of an imminent and major political and economic event in the (short) history of the EU: Brexit.

To this purpose, S&P Global Market Intelligence has developed a statistical model: the Credit Analytics Macro-scenario model enables users to study how potential future macroeconomic scenarios may affect the evolution of the credit risk profile of EU private companies. This model was developed by looking at the historical evolution of S&P Global Ratings’ rated companies under different macroeconomic conditions, and can be applied to smaller companies after the PD is mapped to a S&P Global Market Intelligence credit score.

“Soft Brexit” (Figure 2): This scenario is based on the baseline forecast made by economists at S&P Global Ratings and is characterized by a gentle slow-down of economic growth, a progressive monetary policy tightening, and low yet volatile stock-market growth.4

Figure 2: “Soft Brexit” macro scenario.5

Source: S&P Global Ratings Economists. As of October 2018.

Applying the Macro-scenario model, we analyze the evolution of the credit risk profile of EU companies over a three-year period from 2018 to 2020, by industry sector and by country:

  • Sector Analysis (Figure 3):
    • The median credit risk score within specific industry sectors (Aerospace & Defense, Pharmaceuticals, Telecoms, Utilities, and Real Estate) shows a good degree of resilience, rising by less than half a notch by 2020 and remaining comfortably below the ‘b+’ threshold.
    • The median credit score of the Retail and Consumer Products sectors, however, is severely impacted, breaching the high risk threshold (here defined at the ‘b-’ level).
    • The remaining industry sectors show various dynamics, but essentially remain within the intermediate risk band (here defined between the ‘b+’ and the ‘b-’ level).

Figure 3: “Soft Brexit” impact on the median credit risk level of EU private companies, by industry.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. As of October 2018.

  • Country Analysis (Figure 4):
    • Although the median credit risk score may not change significantly in certain countries, the associated default rates need to be adjusted for the impact of the credit cycle.6 The “spider-web plot” shows the median PD values for private companies within EU countries, adjusted for the credit cycle. Here we include only countries with a minimum number of private companies within the Credit Analytics pre-scored database, to ensure a robust statistical analysis.
    • Countries are ordered by increasing level of median PD, moving clock-wise from Netherlands to Greece.
    • Under a soft Brexit scenario, the PD of UK private companies increases between 2018 and 2020, but still remains below the yellow threshold (corresponding to a ‘b+’ level).
    • Interestingly, Italian private companies suffer more than their Spanish peers, albeit starting from a slightly lower PD level in 2017.

Figure 4: “Soft Brexit” impact on the median credit risk level of EU private companies, by country.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. As of October 2018.

“Hard Brexit” (Figure 5): This scenario is extracted from the 2018 Stress-Testing exercise of the European Banking Authority (EBA) and the Bank of England.7 Under this scenario, both the EU and UK may go into a recession similar to the 2008 global crisis. Arguably, this may seem a harsh scenario for the whole of the EU, but a recent report by the Bank of England warned that a disorderly Brexit may trigger a UK crisis worse than 2008.8

Figure 5: “Hard Brexit” macro scenario.9

Sources:”2018 EU-wide stress test – methodological note” (European Banking Authority, November 2017) and “Stress Testing the UK Banking system: 2018 guidance for participating banks and building societies“ (Bank of England, March 2018).

Also in this case, we apply the Macro-scenario model to analyze the evolution of the credit risk profile of EU companies over the same three-year period, by industry sector and by country:

  • Sector Analysis (Figure 6):
    • Despite all industry sectors being severely impacted, the Pharmaceuticals and Utilities sectors remain below the ‘b+’ level (yellow threshold).
    • Conversely, the Airlines and Energy sectors join Retail and Consumer Products in the “danger zone” above the ‘b-’ level (red threshold).
    • The remaining industry sectors will either move into or remain within the intermediate risk band (here defined between the ‘b+’ and the ‘b-’ level).

Figure 6: “Hard Brexit” impact on the median credit risk level of EU private companies, by industry.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. As of October 2018.

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  • Country Analysis (Figure 7):
    • Under a hard Brexit scenario, the PD of UK private companies increases between 2017 and 2020, entering the intermediate risk band and suffering even more than its Irish peers.
    • Notably, by 2020 the French private sector may suffer more than the Italian private sector, reaching the attention threshold (here shown as a red circle, and corresponding to a ‘b-’ level).
    • While it is hard to do an exact like-for-like comparison, it is worth noting that our conclusions are broadly aligned with the findings from the 48 banks participating in the 2018 stress-testing exercise, as recently published by the EBA:10 the major share of 2018-2020 new credit risk losses in the stressed scenario will concentrate among counterparties in the UK, Italy, France, Spain, and Germany (leaving aside the usual suspects, such as Greece, Portugal, etc.).

Figure 7: “Hard Brexit” impact on the median credit risk level of EU private companies, by country.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. As of October 2018.

In conclusion: In Europe, the private companies’ credit risk landscape does not yet signal a distinct turning point, however Brexit may act as a pivot point and a catalyst for a credit cycle inversion, with an intensity that will be dependent on the Brexit type of landing (i.e., soft versus hard).

1 S&P Global Ratings does not contribute to or participate in the creation of credit scores generated by S&P Global Market Intelligence.
2 Lowercase nomenclature is used to differentiate S&P Global Market Intelligence credit scores from the credit ratings issued by S&P Global Ratings.
3 Not shown here.
4 Measured via Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Growth, Long-term / Short-term (L/S) European Central Bank Interest Rate Spread, and FTSE100 or STOXX50 stock market growth, respectively.
5 Macroeconomic forecast for 2018-2020 (end of year) by economists at S&P Global Ratings; the baseline case assumes the UK and the EU will reach a Brexit deal (e.g. a “soft Brexit”).
6 When the credit cycle deteriorates (improves), default rates are expected to increase (decrease).
7 Source: “2018 EU-wide stress test – methodological note” (EBA, November 2017) and “Stress Testing the UK Banking system: 2018 guidance for participating banks and building societies”. (Bank of England, March 2018).
8 Source: “EU withdrawal scenarios and monetary and financial stability – A response to the House of Commons Treasury Committee”. (Bank of England, November 2018).
9 As a hard Brexit scenario, we adopt the stressed scenario included in the 2018 stress testing exercise and defined by the EBA and the Bank of England.
10 See, for example, Figure 18 in “2018 EU-Wide Stress Test Result” (EBA November 2018), found at:https://eba.europa.eu/documents/10180/2419200/2018-EU-wide-stress-test-Results.pdf

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2019 Credit Risk Perspectives: Is The Credit Cycle Turning? A Market-Driven View

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Credit Analysis
2019 Credit Risk Perspectives: Is The Credit Cycle Turning? A Market Driven View

Mar. 15 2019 — On November 20, 2018, a joint event hosted by S&P Global Market Intelligence and S&P Global Ratings took place in London, focusing on credit risk and 2019 perspectives.

Giorgio Baldassarri, Global Head of the Analytic Development Group, and I provided a review of the latest trends observed across non-financial corporate firms through the lens of S&P Global Market Intelligence’s statistical models.1 In particular, Giorgio focused on the analysis of the evolution of the credit risk profile of European Union companies between 2013 and 2017, and how this may change under various Brexit scenario; if you want to know more, you can visit here.

I started with an overview of key trends of the credit risk of public companies at a global level, before diving deeper into regional and industry sector-specific performance and pointing out some key drivers of country- and industry-level risk. Credit Analytics Probability of Default (PD) Market Signals model was used to derive these statistics. This is a structural model (enhanced Merton approach) that produces PD values for all public corporates and financial institutions globally. Credit scores are mapped to PD values, which are derived from S&P Global Ratings observed default rates (ODRs).

From January 2018 to October 2018, we saw an increase in the underlying PD values generated by PD Market Signals across all regional S&P Broad Market Indices (BMIs), as shown in Figure 1. For Asia Pacific, Europe, and North America, the overall increase was primarily driven by the significant shift in February 2018, which saw an increase in the PD between 100% to 300% on a relative basis. The main mover on an absolute basis was Latin America, which had a PD increase of over 0.35 percentage points.

Figure 1: BMI Benchmark Median credit scores generated by PD Market Signals, between January 1 and October 1, 2018.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. As of October 2018.

Moving to the S&P Europe BMI in Figure 2, we can further isolate three of the main drivers behind the overall increase in PDs (this time measured on a relative basis), namely Netherlands, France, and Austria. Among these, the Netherlands had the most prominent increase between August and October. Again, one can identify the significant increase in the PDs in February, ranging from 150% to 230%, across all three countries. Towards July, we saw the spread between the three outliers shrink significantly. In August and September, however, the S&P Europe BMI began to decrease again, whilst all three of our focus countries were either increasing in risk (Netherlands, from a 150% level in the beginning of August to a 330% level at the end of September) or remaining relatively constant (France and Austria).

Figure 2: European Benchmark Median PD scores generated by PD Market Signals model, between January 1 and October 1, 2018.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. As of October 2018.

In the emerging markets, Turkey, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Qatar were the most prominent outliers from the S&P Mid-East and Africa BMI. As visible in Figure 3, the S&P Mid-East and Africa BMI saw less volatility throughout 2018 and was just slightly above its start value as of October. Two of the main drivers behind this increase were the PDs of the country benchmarks for Turkey and the UAE. Turkey, especially, stood out: the PD of its public companies performed in line with the S&P Mid-East and Africa BMI until mid-April, when it increased significantly and showed high volatility until October. On the other hand, the benchmark for Qatar decreased by over 60% between May and October.

Figure 3: S&P Mid-East and Africa BMI Median PD scores generated by PD Market Signals, between January 1 and October 1, 2018.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. As of October 2018.

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We then looked at different industries in Europe. As shown in Figure 4, the main shift in S&P BMIs occurred in February, with most industries staying on a similar level for the remaining period. The main outliers were the S&P Industrials, Materials, and, in particular, Consumer Discretionary Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) BMIs. The S&P Energy BMI saw some of the highest volatility, but was able to decrease significantly throughout September. At the same time, the Materials sector saw a continuous default risk increase from the beginning of June, finishing at an absolute median PD level of slightly over 1% when compared to the start of the year.

Figure 4: S&P EMEA Industry BMI Median PD scores generated by PD Market Signals, between January 1 and October 1, 2018.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. As of October 2018.

In conclusion, looking at the public companies, Latin America, Asia Pacific, and Europe pointed towards an increase of credit risk between January 2018 and October 2018, amid heightened tensions due to the current U.S. policy towards Latin-American countries, the U.S./China trade war, and Brexit uncertainty.

1 S&P Global Ratings does not contribute to or participate in the creation of credit scores generated by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

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2019 Credit Risk Perspectives: Is The Credit Cycle Turning? A Fundamentals View

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AVIA OTT Summit 2019 Offers Insight Into Changing OTT Roadmap

Mar. 06 2019 — Over-the-top video in the Asia-Pacific has been rapidly evolving as OTT players continue to learn and understand the landscape. Industry experts who participated in the Asia Video Industry Association OTT Summit 2019, held February 20 in Singapore, emphasized the importance of relevant content and adaptability of OTT players, particularly in finding the right business model.

According to Media Partners Asia's Vice President Aravind Venugopal, most OTT players that entered the region in 2016 — citing Netflix Inc., HOOQ and iflix — primarily offered a subscription service, whereas PCCW Media Ltd's Viu provided ad-supported content. He said that a year after, each one was trying to figure out what revenue model would work best. It was at that time that sachet pricing, transactional video-on-demand and ad-supported content became more prevalent.

As for 2018, it was said that OTT players moved toward paths through which monetization could continue to grow, and advertising video-on-demand had to be maximized. Venugopal cited that in one of Media Partners Asia's studies, online video platforms that were more ad-focused came out on top. China players such as iQIYI Inc., Tencent Holdings Ltd.'s Tencent Video and Youku Tudou Inc. are able to monetize consumers by adding sachet pricing, as well as allowing customers to purchase magazines or books, or any other offering that would make them stay on the service.

As more OTT services enter the region, finding the most ideal business model to retain and grow viewership can be a challenge. Panelists who were part of the "AVOD vs SVOD vs TVOD: Finding the Right Business Model" discussion, however, agreed there really is not any right model — it is yet to be discovered as OTT players learn more about their respective areas of operation.

Services will have to adapt and should be open to evolving content offerings based on consumers, while also taking regulatory policies into consideration.

In the case of HOOQ, CTO Michael Fleshman highlighted that the company is moving toward using a freemium model, through which consumers may eventually no longer need to register on the site. The OTT player is also trying to maintain simpler packages, with free content very much accessible for everyone.

He also said that HOOQ was initially worried about cannibalizing the subscription video-on-demand business, but as it turns out, engagement is still doing well.

HOOQ recently added linear channels to its offering, and Fleshman emphasized that the OTT service is not shifting but expanding its service so customers will not feel the need to go somewhere else to watch linear channels.

When global OTT player Netflix entered Asia in 2016, it had an international playbook in hand, which made collaborating with local operators a crucial step in learning more about the region. Subscription payment was one of its main concerns and having local partners became beneficial in addressing this.

When asked how the company felt about competitors and what its competitive advantage was in the Asia-Pacific region, Tony Zameczkowski, Netflix's vice president of business development in Asia, said the company sees competition as a good thing.

He also said Netflix's competitive advantage is its platform, content, marketing and partnership. In terms of platform, Zameczkowski elaborated that Netflix provides a "hyper-personalized" service capable of providing recommendations and personalizing the customer's content library.

In terms of content, Zameczkowski acknowledged that the OTT player's local content offering was initially weak. Soon after acquiring various licensing content from producers, however, Netflix started producing original content. The company will continue to invest in relevant titles. In relation to marketing the service, Zameczkowski said that Netflix banks on its titles, part of its promotional strategy.

Partnering with telcos was also very instrumental in establishing Netflix's presence in the region. Likewise, partnering with device manufacturers was important — a different approach for the company, as the Netflix app would normally be included on most devices in U.S. and European markets.

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