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Concern mixes with opportunity in Mexico -Argus Americas Crude Summit



By Argus


Petroleumworld 01 24 2019

Mexico's shifting energy policies are a challenge for independent US refiner Phillips 66, yet the country is full of opportunities that "everybody sees," said Brian Mandell, senior vice president of marketing and commercial at the company.

"It is just a question of how you want to play those opportunities with the local oil company [Pemex] or play it right up to the end user, in terms of retail," Mandell said.

Many refiners are in Mexico working on deals for branded retail stations as a way into the markets. Yet the change in policies from the pro-business administration of former president Enrique Pena Nieto to the current President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador makes the search for those opportunities harder, Mandell said at the Argus Americas Crude Summit in Houston, Texas, today.

"Every administration even in the US swings in terms of their policy which makes it difficult," he said. "How do you convince yourself that whatever presidents are opening up for the country to investment is going to be there long-term, after you invest?"

And while some of Lopez Obrador's early moves have concerned investors and ratings agencies, "the realities of the sector and the realities of Mexico's economy are pointing to increased pragmatism as the government learns a little bit more" about energy, said Francisco Monaldi, with Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Also speaking at the conference Monaldi said Lopez Obrador's approach to investment will likely be more similar to Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva or Argentina's former president Nestor Kirchner than Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

Mexico has a more diversified economy, and does not have the types of reserves for a massive commodity boom.

"The cost of misbehaving in the oil sector, of becoming very radical, will be felt in the rest of the economy," Monaldi said

Phillips 66 has opened five retail fuel stations in Mexico, but plans to open 30 in the north of the country with "100pc exported fuel," meaning its supply will come directly from its refineries in the US and not from state-run Pemex.


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