* Resource nationalism easing, say oil bosses
* Countries compete for capital to develop resources
* Oil majors get bigger bargaining power
* Majors on capital diet, new players get bigger chances
By Dmitry Zhdannikov
DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 25 Oil executives
normally travel the world to win big contracts - but rarely do
government officials travel the other way.
This week in Davos, however, some of the most powerful oil
CEOs gathered on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum and
were presented with an embarrassment of riches.
While the appearance of Iran's new president and oil
minister in front of the heads of BP, ENI, Total
and Lukoil made most headlines, the
executives also heard presentations by officials from Canada,
Mozambique and Mexico.
The head of BP Bob Dudley drew a simple conclusion:
"It just shows how big the shifts are in the industry."
Oil prices peaked at $147 a barrel in 2008 amid growing
fears that the world was running out of oil. Five years on, oil
is considered plentiful thanks to the U.S. shale oil revolution
and the discovery of massive oil and gas fields elsewhere.
Some executives are beginning to talk about an easing of
resource nationalism, one of the hottest topics in the industry
over the past decade as countries such as Russia and Kazakhstan
became increasingly assertive about developing their reserves
"Today a number of countries which have huge reserves of oil
and gas begin to say that they need investments to develop
them," said the head of Lukoil Vagit Alekperov.
"It is not only Iran. It is Mexico, East Africa. We have
seen a period of national protectionism when unfortunately we
could not access some countries because it was all run by
national companies. Today the situation changes," he said.
Privately-held Lukoil, which is limited in accessing giant
fields in its home base Russia, this week signed a memorandum to
study projects in Mexico with state energy company Pemex as the
country opens up its energy sector to boost production.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto last month signed a
bill into law that ended the country's 75-year-old oil and gas
Iranian President Hasan Rouhani called on oil companies in
Davos to return to Iran as part of Tehran's move for a
rapprochement with the West. Meanwhile, Canada and Mozambique
are tapping some of the world's biggest oil and gas fields.
For oil majors, that means one thing: Their bargaining power
is as great as ever as a huge number of large projects compete
for their money.
"I made it clear some time ago I'm not going back to Iran
under old contract terms even if all sanctions are lifted," said
the chief executive of ENI Paolo Scaroni.
The stiff competition between projects comes as oil majors
slash their budgets in response to shareholders' calls on them
to stop overspending and increase dividend payouts.
"We are all on a capital diet right now, and that means that
some of these projects won't be developed unless terms are
attractive," the CEO of one oil major said. That presents an
opportunity for players who in the old days would always lose
out to majors.
"Majors will no longer be developing the lion's share of big
projects in the world. But it doesn't necessarily mean they will
remain undeveloped. I expect national oil companies like China's
CNPC and even mid-sized independents to step in and fill the
space," another oil executive said.