Iran Seen Taking Its Time on Joint Action With OPEC Members

(Bloomberg) - Iran says it’s almost ready to talk with other OPEC members about limiting oil production as the country’s exports recover to levels reached before international sanctions crippled crude sales. Morgan Stanley and Barclays Plc say no agreement is in the cards for now.

With prices up 65 percent from the 12-year low in January, joint action by members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries may not be needed, according to Barclays analyst Miswin Mahesh in London. Morgan Stanley says higher prices are reducing the urgency for OPEC to act.

“The market is set to balance, but higher prices could slow down the process,” Mahesh said by phone Monday.  “Would it really be in their long term interest of balancing the oil market if oil prices move higher too quickly?”

Double Exports

The Persian Gulf country will double crude exports to 2 million barrels a day this month compared with sales before sanctions were lifted in January, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said in a speech in Tehran Sunday. Lifting sales to the pre-sanctions level could pave the way for Iran and other OPEC members to talk about limits on production in as soon as one or two months, Rokneddin Javadi, managing director at National Iranian Oil Co., said Thursday.

Iran is seeking to rebuild its energy industry and restore crude sales after a January nuclear deal expanded its access to global oil markets and investment. The country last month refused to join other nations in a push to freeze output. 

Iran exported about 2 million barrels of crude daily in 2011, before U.S. and European restrictions forced countries to stop buying from Iran, according to the Joint Organisations Data Initiative. Iran sold about half that amount once sanctions kicked in, Zanganeh said Sunday. The country produced 3.5 million barrels a day of crude in April compared with about 2.8 million a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Oil Prices

Rising production and exports from Iran is bearish for oil prices as output returns faster than expected, Adam Longson, a Morgan Stanley analyst, said in a report e-mailed Monday. Crude and condensate output of about 4.2 million barrels a day is 800,000 barrels more than the country pumped in November and exceeds consensus estimates for the amount Iran would actually add to the market, according to the report.

“Iran may be willing to join a freeze, but only because production has exceeded expectations,” Longson said.

OPEC members can’t be expected to reach a freeze deal when they next meet in June, according to Robin Mills, chief executive officer of Dubai-based consultants Qamar Energy. Iran’s oil production needs to be closer to 3.6 million to 3.8 million barrels a day to consider a freeze, and that probably won’t happen until the third or fourth quarter, Mills said.

Morgan Stanley forecasts oil to drop to an average of $30 a barrel in the third and fourth quarters while Mills expects Brent crude to end 2016 at about $50 a barrel.

“OPEC intervention is unlikely,” according to Morgan Stanley. “It remains to be seen whether producers are truly willing to agree to an artificial cap, particularly as higher prices reduce the urgency.”

- With assistance from Manus Cranny, Sharon Cho and Hashem Kalantari. To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony DiPaola in Dubai at adipaola@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nayla Razzouk at nrazzouk2@bloomberg.net Claudia Carpenter, Amanda Jordan

Copyright 2016 Bloomberg News.

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