While the economic factors vary from country to country, most are suffering from lower global growth, loss of export revenue from falling commodities prices, and a rising dollar that is making emerging-market yields less attractive to portfolio investors anticipating that the U.S. Federal Reserve will start raising interest rates soon.
Latin American countries never seem to get out of the extractive economic model set under the Spanish and Portuguese empires; add to that the end of quantitative easing and of zero interest rates in the U.S., and the prospect is glum.
Mexico’s recent public auction of shallow-water exploration blocks in the Gulf of Mexico failed to attract international bidders:
The private sector often has a better understanding of subsea prospects than the public sector, but Mexico’s wariness about fully ceding control may have prevented the government from understanding the true value of the blocks. “They are still having trouble letting go of the old mindset of full control, rather than letting the market decide,” says one industry executive. One of the two blocks awarded to the winning consortium (comprising Mexico Sierra Oil and Gas, Dallas-based Talos Energy and London-based Premier Oil) was more hotly contested than the government expected; four groups offered well above the government-mandated minimum.
Because of historical sensitivities, Mexico awarded rare profit-sharing contracts between the state and private firms, rather than fully confer ownership of oil reserves to the private sector. It also required a level of corporate guarantee to cover spillages that went beyond international norms. Its potential ability to rescind contracts has alarmed some oil companies, too, lest their wells be expropriated without compensation in the future.
Once you factor in those risks vs current oil prices, the real story here is simpler: the financial arithmetic facing a potential investor has been totally upended by the collapse of oil prices.
And let’s not forget the batshit-crazy approach to debt.