Vitol takes U.S. oil up a notch with Noble deal

After a strategic review, commodities trade Noble Group said it was trimming more fat.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Oct. 23, 2017 at 9:58 AM
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Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Commodities trader Noble Group said Monday it sold off an oil trading business focused on the Americas to its counterpart, Vitol, for $576 million.

"The net proceeds will unlock capital from Noble Group's balance sheet and generate significant liquidity," Noble Group said in a statement justifying the sale. "It is expected that the net proceeds will be made available to reduce Noble Group's indebtedness."

Vitol confirmed Monday that it agreed to acquire Noble Americas, the company's regional trading business.

Noble has been on a divestment streak since at least last year when it sold off more than 33,000 undeveloped acres in the Denver-Julesburg shale basin in Colorado to Synergy Resources for $505 million.

Early last year, when the price for crude oil hovered around $30 per barrel, the company set a 2016 spending target of about $1.5 billion, which was 50 percent lower than outlined for 2015. The company said Monday that a strategic review carried out "during a challenging period" for the company exposed mounting difficulties.

"The strategic review had also been undertaken in the context of managing Noble Group's short-term liquidity challenges, while at the same time formulating a plan for the turnaround of Noble Group's business," the company said.

Vitol had no comment on the arrangement, other than to confirm the acquisition. The deal is important for the company nonetheless. Vitol scheduled the loading of 600,000 barrels of light crude oil from a Houston shipping terminal with the help of Enterprise Product Partners during the first week of January 2016. It was the first such shipment in roughly 40 years.

A 40-year-old ban on U.S. crude oil exports ended in the waning years of President Barack Obama's tenure.

A market report from Bank of America-Merrill Lynch in mid-October said the spread, or difference, between West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of oil, and Brent, the global benchmark, made U.S. crude competitive on the open market.

Brent crude oil was about $5.60 per barrel more expensive than WTI early Monday.

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