Press Release

DBRS Morningstar Places BP p.l.c. and Repsol, S.A. Under Review with Negative Implications

March 27, 2020

DBRS Ratings Limited and DBRS Ratings GmbH (collectively DBRS Morningstar) have placed the Issuer Ratings of BP p.l.c. and Repsol, S.A. Under Review with Negative Implications. This follows the recent extreme price declines and heightened volatility in crude oil and petroleum product markets largely caused by the rapid global spread of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) and the concurrent crude oil price war between OPEC (led by Saudi Arabia) and Russia. Because of the very high level of volatility and uncertain length of time for which weak crude oil and petroleum product markets will persist, the ratings have been put Under Review with Negative Implications.

The Under Review with Negative Implications status accounts for DBRS Morningstar’s view that because of (1) the extreme decline in the price of crude oil and petroleum product prices; (2) the significant rise in market volatility; and (3) the considerable uncertainty regarding the demand outlook for crude oil and petroleum products, DBRS Morningstar expects issuers’ credit profiles to experience considerable downward pressure over the weeks and months to come although the full extent of the recent shock to crude oil and petroleum product markets has yet to be established. The Under Review with Negative Implications status generally reflects DBRS Morningstar’s belief that downgrades for at least a significant part of the portfolio is likely. However, as situations and potential rating implications may vary, the final rating determination may change from the initial assessment The Under Review with Negative Implications status is generally resolved with a rating action within three months. However, if heightened market uncertainty and volatility persists, DBRS Morningstar may extend the Under Review status for a longer period of time.

The swift spread of the coronavirus across the globe and the simultaneous breakdown of the alliance between OPEC and a group of non-OPEC producers (OPEC plus) has created a large oversupply of crude oil and petroleum products. This oversupply is leading to a substantial buildup in inventories and has caused both crude oil and refined product prices to collapse. The magnitude and speed of the decline has been unprecedented with the benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil price plunging to nearly USD 20/per barrel (bbl) recently and the price of Brent sinking below the USD 30/bbl level.

As countries around the world take drastic actions to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, global economic activity is rapidly contracting and, in parallel, so is the demand for crude oil and petroleum products. In particular, the demand for petroleum-based fuels, such as jet fuel and gasoline, has drastically fallen as travel and transportation activity has been curtailed. The extent and duration of economic damage caused by the coronavirus is very uncertain. Nevertheless, the short-term impact on consumption will be severe with some forecasts indicating as much as a 10% drop in global crude oil demand over the span of a quarter.

Exacerbating the impact of deteriorating oil demand is the breakdown of the OPEC plus alliance. Until March 6, 2020, the alliance was providing stability and some support to crude oil markets via measured production cuts. The global spread of the coronavirus and the negative impact on crude oil demand produced significant friction within the alliance (specifically between Russia and Saudi Arabia) related to the implementation of additional production curtailments. The bitter disagreement has resulted in OPEC plus coming apart. As the market disintegrated, Saudi Arabia—the largest producer in the OPEC cartel—announced plans to ramp-up its production volumes by over 2.5 million barrels per day (b/d) in April and to offer sizable discounts on its crude oil streams. The move by Saudi Arabia to protect market share has started an all-out price war, adding fuel to an already raging fire.

Crude oil is the feedstock for refiners. Historically, for integrated companies, an oil price decline caused upstream profitability to shrink, but resilient profitability from refining (downstream) operations provided a partial offset or buffer to total integrated company margins. However, in the current situation, demand destruction for petroleum-derived products has been so sudden and severe that the squeeze on refining margins and falling demand is forcing operators to cut refining runs. Simply stated, the diversified model has not provided the same margin protection that integrated companies have historically enjoyed. Despite this, DBRS Morningstar expects that when economic activity rebounds and demand for lower-priced gasoline, jet fuel, and other refined products bounces back, downstream profitability will recover before the upstream business.

Canadian and U.S. natural gas pricing has been more resilient than pricing for crude oil and refined product margins. In Western Canada, the price of natural gas has been relatively steady with the spot price in Alberta at around $2/thousand cubic feet (mcf). Canadian pricing reflects an improvement in the supply/demand fundamentals largely because of declining production in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin over the last couple of years, as weak economic returns discouraged natural gas investments coupled with the challenge for producers securing market access.

In the U.S., mild winter temperatures—this was the sixth warmest U.S. winter in recorded history—led to less heating demand for natural gas, resulting in U.S. storage increasing to 15% above the five-year average currently, versus parity at year-end 2018. With ample U.S. natural gas inventory heading in to April, in order to temper inventory build and to support gas pricing, it would require (1) a colder-than-typical spring followed by strong air-conditioning demand this summer and (2) resilient industrial demand (for power generation and as feedstock for chemical, fertilizer, and hydrogen manufacturing) in the face of the coronavirus-caused economic decline. Given this challenging backdrop, DBRS Morningstar believes that the U.S. market price for natural gas will remain subdued for the foreseeable future, at or below USD 2/mcf.

Commensurate with the collapse in demand and price of crude oil and refined products, O&G issuers rated by DBRS Morningstar are experiencing intense, near-term financial challenges. Issuers have quickly responded by sharply cutting operating costs and scaling back capital spending (capex) programs to levels that are in line with or below the level needed to sustain a base level of operations. However, at current the WTI benchmark oil price and incorporating actual and proposed 2020 capex cuts, the majority of DBRS Morningstar-rated issuers are not free cash flow positive (i.e., operating cash flow after subtracting capex and dividends). A WTI-basis oil price in excess of USD 30/bbl provides a small subset of low-cost, North American producers to achieve free cash flow breakeven. However, for most other producers, a much higher oil price is required. Additionally, all issuers have been scaling back production growth forecasts.

With continued, near-term pressure on the crude oil price and heightened volatility, DBRS Morningstar expects issuers to further reduce capex programs, cut operating and overhead costs, scale back or eliminate dividends, and lower production volumes. Ample sources of liquidity, commodity hedges that provide some short-term cash flow support, and the flexibility to utilise levers to shore up the balance sheet are critical for issuers to manage through current, very difficult market conditions. Nonetheless, DBRS Morningstar notes that many issuers do not have the same degree of flexibility they had during the 2014–16 oil price collapse. During this period, issuers implemented harsh cost-cutting measures, disposed of non-core assets, and reduced capex programs. In the process, many companies became much more efficient. Currently, reduced capex programs being implemented or proposed by issuers that DBRS Morningstar has reviewed appear to be below what is needed to sustain their base level of operations. Lastly, the current ability to sell assets and tap equity or debt markets to raise cash is considerably more challenging relative to the 2014–16 market environment.

DBRS Morningstar believes that the current, very depressed price of crude oil for producers is unsustainable over the long term. Current pricing does not provide an adequate economic return for much of existing production and certainly not for new developments. Inevitably, the lack of investment will cause global oil production volumes to decline. In particular, DBRS Morningstar expects U.S. shale oil volumes to materially drop due to the steep decline rates typically associated with this kind of production. Furthermore, the depressed oil price may eventually inflict enough financial pain on Saudi Arabia, other OPEC members, and Russia to compel them to cooperate. A renewed OPEC plus production cut agreement would help to stabilise the market and accelerate price recovery.

DBRS Morningstar believes the WTI/Brent oil prices will eventually recover to a midcycle range of USD 50/bbl to USD 60/bbl. As the coronavirus runs its course and the global economy begins to rebound, lower-priced petroleum products will encourage consumption, boosting demand. However, at the current time, it is very difficult to forecast the extent and duration of the impact of the coronavirus on the economy and, therefore, the timing for oil price recovery. For the near term, DBRS Morningstar believes the price of crude oil will remain under intense pressure and volatility will remain extremely high. The current depressed price environment is expected to force O&G and OFS issuers to draw on sources of available liquidity, further eroding their credit profiles.

DBRS Morningstar reviewed several previous price crashes to quantify peak-to-trough pricing, followed by price rebound. Of these, the most relevant two are probably the Asian/Russian financial crisis (1996–98) and the 2008–09 financial collapse, both global economic shocks. In these instances, significant price recovery was achieved in 10 to 12 months after bottom. However, DBRS Morningstar cautions that given the vagaries of the current, coronavirus-induced economic slowdown, history may not provide a good guide.

Due to the drastic declines recently experienced by oil prices and the especially poor, near-term visibility regarding crude oil and petroleum product markets, DBRS Morningstar is placing all ratings for its publicly rated O&G and OFS issuers Under Review with Negative Implications. DBRS Morningstar generally resolves the Under Review status within three months, assuming that greater clarity and stability returns to energy markets. With greater confidence about the direction of energy pricing and updated input from issuers regarding their immediate actions and longer-term plans, DBRS Morningstar will be in a better position to assess each issuer’s credit metrics..

All figures are in U.S. dollars unless otherwise noted.

The principal applicable methodologies are Rating Companies in the Oil and Gas and Oilfield Services Industries (23 August 2019), DBRS Morningstar Criteria: Rating Corporate Holding Companies and Parent/Subsidiary Rating Relationships (25 November 2019), DBRS Morningstar Criteria: Preferred Share and Hybrid Security Criteria for Corporate Issuers (1 November 2019). These can be found can be found at:

For more information regarding rating methodologies and Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), please see the following DBRS Morningstar press release:

The primary sources of information used for this rating include Annual Reports, Quarterly Reports, and publicly available management presentations. DBRS Morningstar considers the information available to it for the purposes of providing this rating to be of satisfactory quality.

A description of how DBRS Morningstar considers ESG factors within the DBRS Morningstar analytical framework and its methodologies can be found at:

This is an unsolicited rating. This credit rating was not initiated at the request of the issuer.

With Rated Entity or Related Third-Party Participation: NO
With Access to Internal Documents: NO
With Access to Management: NO

DBRS Morningstar does not audit the information it receives in connection with the rating process, and it does not and cannot independently verify that information in every instance.

This rating is under review. Generally, the conditions that lead to the assignment of reviews are resolved within a 90-day period. DBRS Morningstar reviews and ratings are under regular surveillance.

For further information on DBRS Morningstar historical default rates published by the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) in a central repository, see:

Ratings assigned by DBRS Ratings Limited and DBRS Ratings GmbH are subject to EU and U.S. regulations only.

BP p.l.c.
Lead Analyst: Rana Toukan, Vice President, Global Corporates
Rating Committee Chair: Victor Vallance, Team Lead, Natural Resources and Pipelines
Initial Rating Date: April 30, 2001
Last Rating Date: September 25, 2019

Repsol, S.A.
Lead Analyst: Giuseppe Fresta, Vice President, Global Corporates
Rating Committee Chair: Victor Vallance, Team Lead, Natural Resources and Pipelines
Initial Rating Date: September 16, 2016
Last Rating Date: October 16, 2019

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-- Rating Companies in the Oil and Gas and Oilfield Services Industries (23 August 2019)

-- DBRS Morningstar Criteria: Rating Corporate Holding Companies and Parent/Subsidiary Rating Relationships (25 November 2019)

-- DBRS Morningstar Criteria: Preferred Share and Hybrid Security Criteria for Corporate Issuers (1 November 2019)

Information regarding DBRS Morningstar ratings, including definitions, policies, and methodologies, is available on