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The Oil Industry Is In Dire Need Of Investment –



The Oil Industry Is In Dire Need Of Investment |

Cyril Widdershoven

Dr. Cyril Widdershoven is a long-time observer of the global energy market. Presently, he holds several advisory positions with international think tanks in the Middle…

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The global oil market is in flux once again. The bulls are fighting it out with the bears as COVID lockdowns come into force around the world. Oil prices may have hit 10-month highs on the back of extended production cuts from OPEC+ but black clouds have re-emerged on the horizon as the majority of OECD markets appear to be struggling with a new strain of COVID.  The new strain was first identified in the UK but has now been reported in China, Japan, and other major Asian markets. Optimism about short-term oil prices should be subdued as demand for fuels will undoubtedly take a hit as lockdowns continue. A potential new oil glut could be in the making for H1 2021 if exporters fail to keep their promises.

Still, there will be a post-COVID era at some point, hopefully shortly after summer. Optimism remains tempered, but global vaccination programs are in place, which could lead to a reopening in the near future. The real market threats in the years to come, however, are currently being ignored. After several years of being bombarded by peak oil demand or oil glut scenarios, the market is without any doubt heading towards a major supply crisis. The COVID-era has not only removed short-term demand and increased interest in a global energy transition, it has also brought down global upstream investments. Analysts have already indicated a possible peak oil investment scenario, but that has been countered by many claiming that renewables will make up for losses. The reality, however, is very worrying.   Demand for crude oil, natural gas, and petroleum products is going to hit a plateau in the coming decades, but it will still likely reach a level of more than 108-110 million bpd for a long period of time. Demand is likely to grow by at least 10 million bpd from current levels. So where are these additional volumes going to come from? With upstream investment faltering and majors turning their back on oil, it remains unclear how this demand will be met.

Related: Big Oil Is An Unsung Hero In The Fight Against COVID

During COVID, international oil companies have seen a steep decline in their revenues, market value, and interest from institutional investors. The ongoing financial plunge has had an enormous effect on their total market capitalization, which plunged to unforeseen levels. In October 2020 reports showed that the combined market cap of the top-5 oil companies in the U.S. fell by 45% to $367 billion, in comparison to $690 billion in December 2019 or $674 billion in October 2019. It wasn’t only COVID that was responsible for this drop, but also global macro-economic drivers, such as the U.S.-China trade war and continuing oil overproduction. In the last year, instability in the market has increased due to lower revenues, increased market cooperation, and a tsunami of bankruptcies, divestments, and consolidation. A significant indicator of just how much the industry was suffering was the removal of ExxonMobil, once the world’s largest publicly traded company, from the Dow Jones Industrial Average in August 2020. Exxon suffered a huge market cap drop in 2020, falling from $300 billion in September 2019 to $144 billion in October 2020.  

European oil and gas companies also suffered in 2020. Almost all 25 NA-European oil and gas companies have seen a market capitalization crash in 2020.  

European supermajors Royal Dutch Shell and BP, which are in the midst of diversifying their businesses, declined in value by 33.5% and 34.5%, respectively. At the end of 2020, overall energy indexes were still around 20% lower than at the start of 2020. 

Major investment institutions are currently turning their backs on hydrocarbon investments. A growing political emphasis on renewables, low-carbon or even Net-Zero production, and other energy transition policies are massively hurting oil and gas investment. The IMF, WB, EBRD, EIB, and others have also stated that they are ending hydrocarbon project financing. The well-recorded oil demand destruction during 2020 has pushed oil supply risks out of the mind of analysts is seems. Most E&P companies have curtailed their spending on upstream operations dramatically. These lower 2020 investment levels, combined with several low investment years before, are now a serious threat to the future of the oil market. Market volatility is expected to increase in the coming years, mainly due to the lower investment levels reducing supply. 

Related: U.S. Oil Drillers To Face More Pain Despite Higher Prices

2021 could be a watershed year for oil markets, in which falling investments and bankruptcies will create a supply crunch the likes of which we have never seen before. With an ever-growing list of delayed upstream projects and FIDs, the threat is growing. In a report by the International Energy Forum (IEF) and consultancy BCG in December 2020, warnings were given that lower CAPEX levels and low investment appetite will be a real threat to markets. OPEC, IEA, and others, have already made it clear that cumulative hydrocarbon related investments are dwindling. As OPEC has indicated before, investment volumes of around $12.6 trillion are needed to keep the oil supply for the coming decades at the current level. Norwegian oil consultancy Rystad Energy said that even though demand has declined in 2020, 2019 levels could return before 2024/25, necessitating future upstream spending of an average of $380 billion p.a. over the long-term. The need for large scale new investments is clear, as the upstream sector has already been fighting an uphill battle to get access to the necessary investment volumes in recent years. Larger investments are necessary to avoid a future of higher prices and increased market volatility. Inadequate investments will set off another wave of unwanted boom-and-bust pricing. With oil majors indicating that CAPEX reductions will be in place throughout 2021, and some even seeing 2022 as a difficult year, production is undoubtedly being threatened. 

Technology alone cannot be the savior. IEF research indicated that every dollar of CAPEX that is cut today will have twice as powerful an effect in terms of reducing activity as the cuts made following the 2014 fall in prices had. As demand for oil and gas is expected to increase after COVID, low CAPEX supply will become a major constraint. At the moment, no real new immense oil and gas resource is available to counter demand growth without trillions of investment dollars being poured in. 

A peak oil investment crisis is in the making. The current financials of most IOCs and leading NOCs are not accounting for peak investment requirements.  As the IEF report clearly states, industry investment will have to rise over the next three years by at least 25% yearly from 2020 levels to stave off a crisis. Peak oil prices also could be a reality if the market doesn’t react. 

By Cyril Widdershoven for

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North American Venture Investment Rose In 2020, Culminating With Big Exits And A Strong Q4 – Crunchbase News



History will remember 2020 as a very bad year by many measures. However, venture funding will not be one of them.

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Funding for startups and growth-stage private companies in North America held up at historically high levels last year. Even amid a pandemic, widespread unemployment, and escalating small-business closures, investment was up year over year across all stages from early and beyond.

Table of contents

North America overall

Overall, venture investors put just over $150 billion to work across all stages in 2020, up around 7 percent from 2019 levels, per Crunchbase data. For perspective, here are the annual funding totals, color-coded by stage, for the past 10 years:

The fourth quarter ended on a robust note as well. Investors poured $38.7 billion into North American seed- through growth-stage deals in Q4, per Crunchbase data. Totals for Q4 of 2020 were up 16 percent year over year and down 12 percent quarter over quarter.

The narrative playing out in the private company sphere largely dovetailed the public market environment. COVID-19, political mayhem and financial distress on Main Street failed to resonate on Wall Street, with major indexes, and tech stocks in particular, reaching record valuations.

The upbeat climate on public exchanges helped spur a raft of venture-backed unicorns to carry out initial public offerings and direct listings, and follow the increasingly popular special purpose acquisition company path to market debuts. Those hitting public markets in Q4 were among the largest debuts of the year, led by Airbnb and DoorDash.

Below, we look at the tallies by stage, highlight top exits, and look at the most active investors for both the year and the just-ended quarter.

Late-stage funding

Late stage accounts for the largest share of venture dollars across any stage, so we’ll start there.

For all of 2020, venture investors put $94.5 billion into late-stage and technology growth1 deals. That’s a sizable jump from 2019, when $85.7 billion went into such deals.

While funding rose, round counts declined a bit. Crunchbase counted 1,167 late-stage and tech-growth rounds in 2020, down 10 percent from 2019, as average round sizes grew larger.  In the chart below, we lay out funding totals and round counts for the past five quarters.

The fourth quarter was the second-biggest of the year for investment totals, with $23.3 billion going to late-stage and technology-growth deals. That’s down 25 percent from Q3, which was by far the biggest quarter of 2020, but up about 18 percent from the year-ago quarter.

For both Q4 and 2020 as a whole, supergiant rounds of $100 million or more played a key role in pushing investment totals up. For the full year, there were 193 so-called supergiant rounds of $100 million and up at the late stage, per Crunchbase data, up from 156 in 2019.

The brisk pace of supergiant late-stage rounds continued in Q4, with five late-stage rounds of $340 million and up:

  • Nuro, a developer of autonomous delivery vehicles, raised a $500 million Series C;
  • Relativity Space, which focuses on 3D printed rockets, raised a $500 million Series D;
  • TuSimple, a self-driving truck company, raised a $350 million Series E; and
  • Scopely, a mobile gaming company raised a $340 million Series E.

For the full year, meanwhile, there were 26 late stage rounds of $300 million and up, with the largest—a $600 million Series E—going to payments processor Stripe.

Early-stage funding

Early-stage investment also rose in 2020, with Q4 ending the year on a high note.

For the full year, investors put $49.1 billion into early-stage rounds (Series A and B), up about 3 percent from the 2019 total. Round counts totaled just under 3,000, down around 11 percent from 2019.

The fourth quarter provided a strong close, with $13.6 billion in early-stage investment, the highest total of the past five quarters. Round counts, meanwhile, were up slightly quarter over quarter, but still down from year-ago levels. We lay the numbers out in more detail in the chart below.

In the fourth quarter in particular, we saw a proliferation of super-sized Series A and B rounds. These include:

  • Resilience, a startup looking to speed up the biopharmaceutical manufacturing process, raised $750 million in a November Series B round;
  • Uber Freight, a logistics spinout of Uber, raised $500 million in an October Series A round;
  • Heyday, a digital marketplace for consumer products brands, raised a $175 million Series A round in November; and
  • Function of Beauty, a provider of customizable beauty products, raised $150 million in a December Series B round.

Seed-stage funding

Seed-stage investment was down in 2020 compared to year-ago levels, and hit a low point in the fourth quarter, according to reported data from Crunchbase.

Overall, seed-stage companies raised $7.2 billion in all of 2020, down 10 percent from 2019. Reported round counts totaled just over 6,400, down 22 percent from 2019 levels.

For Q4, meanwhile, seed investment totaled $1.7 billion, tied for the lowest total in two years, while round counts saw steep year-over-year declines. Investment totals and round counts for the past five quarters are shown below.

Part of the Q4 and 2020 seed-stage declines may be attributed to reporting delays. Much of the seed funding data in the Crunchbase dataset is self-reported by companies. Because a sizable percentage of rounds get entered weeks or months after they close, reported funding totals historically rise over time.

That said, it does appear that seed and angel funding was down some, even accounting for the lag. It’s a trend likely attributable in part to the pandemic. After all, it was not an opportune year to launch a startup in a number of spaces, including travel, hospitality and live entertainment. Investors and founders in a range of sectors may also have taken a wait-and-see approach, preferring to launch and scale in a post-pandemic environment.

The absence of face-to-face networking opportunities probably also played a role. Investment for seed companies is more personality-driven than at other stages, since startups typically have no finished product or market traction.


Overall, 2020 was an exceptionally good year for venture-backed exits, and Q4 was a standout quarter on this front. Below we look at returns from public market debuts, followed by M&A.

IPOs, Direct Listings And SPACs

The tech sector was on fire in the public markets last year, and startups took notice. Many companies that had been talked-about candidates for public listing chose 2020 as the year to make it happen.

Markets were receptive. The year’s biggest tech market debuts included Airbnb, Palantir, DoorDash, and Snowflake, which now collectively maintain a market capitalization of over $300 billion.

Many of the year’s largest market debuts took place in Q4, as laid out in the following list.

In addition to the size and volume of public offerings, 2020 stands out for the variety of methods companies employed to make their market debuts.

While most of the largest offerings were traditional IPOs, we also saw heightened use of two other paths to the markets: direct listings and mergers with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC.

For 2020, the largest direct listing was Palantir, which went public in late September at an initial valuation of $22 billion and has since seen its market cap balloon to $49 billion. On the SPAC side, homebuying and selling platform Opendoor closed out the year with a December debut at an $18 billion valuation following completion of its merger with a blank-check acquirer.


Venture-backed companies also got acquired at a pretty good clip in 2020, with a number of multibillion-dollar deals, including several in the fourth quarter.

Standout M&A deals for 2020 include Illumina’s $8 billion purchase of cancer screening company Grail in September and Intuit’s $7.1 billion purchase of fintech unicorn Credit Karma, which was announced in February and completed in December.

As for Q4, we saw a dozen acquisitions2 valued at $1 billion or more, with the largest of the disclosed deals listed below.

Active Investors

As mature startups exited, younger companies lined up for fresh venture funding, and an array of prominent VC firms stepped up with capital.

Below we look at the most active venture and alternative investors in Q4 of 2020, looking at both new investments and follow-on investments in existing portfolio companies.

We don’t see any big surprises here, although it’s notable that the list does favor companies active in late-stage investment and multistage investment rather than pure early-stage investors.

The Big Picture

So, having crunched the numbers, with what sweeping description may we bid adieu to 2020?

Overall, it was a bullish year for venture funding and exits amidst a grim period in many other respects.

For 2021, startups are certainly hoping the receptive public markets, readily available capital, and strong valuations remain a thing. However, it’d also be nice to see a return of some of the much-missed aspects of startup life, including a lot fewer video meetings and a lot more face-to-face human contact.


The data contained in this report comes directly from Crunchbase, and is based on reported data for North America namely Canada and the United States.

The most recent quarter will increase over time relative to previous quarters. For funding counts, we notice a strong data lag, especially at the seed and early stages, by  as much as 26 percent to 41 percent a year out.

Please note that all funding values are given in U.S. dollars unless otherwise noted. Crunchbase converts foreign currencies to U.S. dollars at the prevailing spot rate from the date funding rounds, acquisitions, IPOs and other financial events are reported. Even if those events were added to Crunchbase long after the event was announced, foreign currency transactions are converted at the historic spot price.

Glossary of funding terms

  • Seed and angel consists of seed, pre-seed and angel rounds. Crunchbase also includes venture rounds of unknown series, equity crowdfunding, and convertible notes at $3 million (USD or as-converted USD equivalent) or less.
  • Early-stage consists of Series A and Series B rounds, as well as other round types. Crunchbase includes venture rounds of unknown series, corporate venture, and other rounds above $3 million, and those less than or equal to $15 million.
  • Late-stage consists of Series C, Series D, Series E and later-lettered venture rounds following the “Series [Letter]” naming convention. Also included are venture rounds of unknown series,  corporate venture, and other rounds above $15 million.
  • Technology growth is a private equity round raised by a company that has previously raised a “venture” round. (So basically, any round from the previously defined stages.)

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Stay up to date with recent funding rounds, acquisitions, and more with the
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JPMorgan's profits jump as economy, investment bank recovers – BNN



CHARLOTTE, N.C. — JPMorgan Chase & Co., the nation’s largest bank by assets, said its fourth quarter profits jumped by 42 per cent from a year earlier, as the firm’s investment banking division had a stellar quarter and its balance sheet improved despite the pandemic.

The New York-based bank said it earned a profit of US$12.14 billion, or US$3.79 per share, up from a profit of US$8.52 billion, or US$2.57 per share, in the same period a year ago. Excluding one-time items, the bank earned US$3.07 a share, which is well above the US$2.62 per share forecast analysts had for the bank.

The one-time item was JPMorgan “releasing” some of the funds it had set aside last year to cover potential loan losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent recession. Banks had set aside tens of billions of dollars to cover potentially bad loans, and JPMorgan had been particularly aggressive in setting aside funds early in the pandemic.

Releasing those funds goes straight to a bank’s bottom line when it reports its results, but it’s not money that the bank generated from loans, customers or borrowers. It’s just funds that were effectively put into escrow and are no longer in escrow.

The US$1.9 billion release is only a fraction of what JPMorgan set aside last year, and with the pandemic raging across the globe and particularly here in the U.S., it’s uncertain how much more the bank will release in the upcoming quarter.

“While positive vaccine and stimulus developments contributed to these reserve releases this quarter, our credit reserves of over US$30 billion continue to reflect significant near-term economic uncertainty,” said JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon in a statement.

The driver of JPMorgan’s profits this quarter was the investment banking business. The corporate and investment bank posted a profit of US$5.35 billion compared with US$2.94 billion in the same period a year earlier. JPMorgan said it saw higher investment banking fees — money banks collect to advise companies on going public or buying other companies — as well as higher fees from its trading desks.

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Shares in China’s Xiaomi tumble after US investment ban – Financial Times



Shares in China’s Xiaomi sank after the US government added the smartphone group to an investment blacklist, in a move that is likely to thin its ranks of American shareholders.

The Beijing-based company’s stock dropped 10.3 per cent in Hong Kong trading on Friday, hours after the Pentagon added it to a list of companies with suspected ties to the Chinese military. That, in conjunction with a separate executive order, will block US investors from buying its shares 60 days from now and will require Americans to eventually sell their holdings.

The move marks a significant blow for Xiaomi, which had been a big beneficiary of Washington’s campaign of sanctions against Chinese competitor Huawei. That had helped Xiaomi’s sales to surpass US group Apple’s, making it the world’s number three phonemaker by units sold in the third quarter. 

Its shares soared 227 per cent last year, pumping up its market value at the end of 2020 to $108bn. Large Xiaomi shareholders include US fund managers BlackRock, Vanguard, Fidelity and State Street, according to Bloomberg data. Friday’s share price fall cut Xiaomi’s market capitalisation by more than $10bn.

State Street declined to comment on its Xiaomi holdings. Vanguard, Fidelity and BlackRock did not respond to requests for comment.

“Xiaomi’s political risks have dramatically increased,” said Wu Yiwen at Strategy Analytics, adding that the blacklisting could threaten the company’s “aggressive expansion plan and affect partners’ confidence”.

An executive order from US President Donald Trump in November targeted US investments in Chinese businesses alleged to have ties to the country’s military. The Pentagon’s list included China’s three big state-owned telecom carriers, prompting the New York Stock Exchange to de-list the companies.

S&P Dow Jones Indices, MSCI and FTSE Russell all removed China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom from their global equity indices. But State Street decided that its $13.4bn fund that tracks Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index, which contains two of the telecom groups, could continue trading in securities of the sanctioned companies.

Wendy Wysong, a partner at the Hong Kong office of law firm Steptoe & Johnson, said the Trump executive order did not apply to foreign subsidiaries of US companies. However, she added that “a US company cannot evade the prohibitions by directing their Asian subsidiary to deal in the securities”.

The US defence department said the move against Xiaomi and eight other newly listed Chinese companies aimed to counter the country’s “military-civil fusion development strategy” but offered no evidence of the smartphone maker’s involvement in this. 

Xiaomi said in a statement to the Hong Kong bourse on Friday that it was not controlled by, or affiliated to, the Chinese military and that it was “reviewing the potential consequences of this to develop a fuller understanding of its impact on the [company]”.

China’s foreign ministry said on Friday the US was abusing its state power, adding that it would “take necessary measures to protect the legitimate interests of Chinese companies”.

Analysts say the case against Xiaomi is thin and could be reversed under the incoming Biden administration.

“Although it won’t be Biden’s priority to undo each and every one of Trump’s outgoing moves, the Xiaomi investment ban’s deadlines could be postponed — most likely for a few weeks at first, then possibly more durably,” said Andrew Bishop, head of research at policy risk consultancy Signum Global.

CK Lu, an analyst at research firm Gartner, said the investment ban would not affect Xiaomi’s products or supply chain but could hit its ability to raise capital if US shareholders could not buy its shares.

Nian Liu contributed reporting from Beijing.

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