Speaking to the BBC, Mr Dudley suggested petrol prices could drop to 1 per litre, so its not bad news for everyone. But BP itself is planning to rein in its capital expenditure and has already cut jobs in its North Sea operations, while Royal Dutch Shell has canned a planned development in Kuwait.
Share price holding up
Coming on the back of the latest legal findings in New Orleans that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill released less oil than had been claimed and the fine should be lower than feared Mr Dudleys latest warning does not seem to have affected BP shareholders too much. The share price is actually up 14% since mid-December, so the adverse effect of prolonged cheap oil has already been accounted for, it seems.
But even after an expected fall in EPS of nearly 50% for the year just ended, followed by a further 20% currently forecast for 2015, BP shares would still be on a P/E of just under 13. Thats barely below the FTSE 100s long-term average of around 14, and the longer the black stuff remains at around $50 a barrel, the more pressure well surely see on BPs share price.
Forecast dividend yields are still very high, with more than 6% penciled in for 2014 and the following two years, but theyd be very poorly covered by earnings. Wed see only 1.3 times based on 2015 forecasts, and there must be an increasing chance of the cash being cut the longer the gloom continues.
Who will win?
Sure, theyre already under pressure to cut retail costs in response to falling oil, and British Gas has just pledged a 5% cut. But its possible to do that while still having room for improved margins. It was expensive oil that led to an effective price freeze, as it was politically unacceptable to raise prices especially so close to an election, and an extended period of cheaper wholesale energy could take the pressure off.
The Centrica share price has dipped a bit of late, losing 16.5% over the past 12 months. But dividend yields are still high at more than 6% (and cover doesnt need to be high), and if cheap oil should help boost earnings forecasts a little over the next couple of years we could be looking at a bargain.
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