By Nick Fletcher
The tumbling oil price has led to a trebling of insolvencies among UK oil and gas services companies so far this year, while £55bn of further oil projects reportedly under threat.
Brent crude closed below $62 a barrel on Friday, a five-and-a-half-year low, amid fears of falling demand and oversupply as the global economy slows down.
A decison last month by Opec, which supplies about 40% of the world’s oil, to keep production unchanged despite the price fall only served to send crude sliding even lower.
On Sunday, the United Arab Emirates energy minister, Suhail Al-Mazrouei, said Opec would not cut crude output even if the price dropped as low as $40 a barrel. He told Bloomberg at a conference in Dubai: “We are not going to change our minds because the prices went to $60 or to $40. We’re not targeting a price; the market will stabilise itself.”
A report due on Monday from accountancy firm Moore Stephens said 18 businesses in the UK oil and gas services sector had become insolvent in 2014 compared with just six last year. It said that although the increase was from a low base, it was significant because insolvencies in the sector had been rare over the last five years.
Jeremey Willmont at Moore Stephens said: “The fall in the oil price has translated into insolvencies in the oil and gas services sector remarkably quickly. The oil and gas services sector has enjoyed very strong trading conditions for the last 15 years, so perhaps they have not been quite so well prepared for a sustained deterioration in trading conditions as other sectors would have been.
“There was a sharp drop in the oil price during the financial crisis, but the sense that oil prices could be depressed for some time is much more widespread this time around.Read more