Oil patch short-seller profits from crash


  • Energy
  • Monday, 21 Sep 2020

NEW YORK: A hedge fund betting on the decline of fossil fuels has made a 25% gain this year after oil’s historic crash sent energy stocks plummeting. Now it expects them to fall further if Joe Biden wins the US presidential election.

Hite Hedge Asset Management made the gains in its Carbon Offset fund by shorting oil and gas producers and pipeline operators with the most exposure to federal lands in New Mexico, North Dakota and Alaska, according to investor documents viewed by Bloomberg.

The US$500mil firm also has bearish wagers on energy bonds that it deems overpriced relative to other industries, the documents show.

Energy stocks have plunged this year after the Covid-19 pandemic slashed consumption of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, sending the price of crude in New York to an unprecedented minus US$40 a barrel at the height of the sell-off in April.

The S&P 500 Energy Index is among the worst-performing US market sectors this year, down about 45%.

Meanwhile, high-yield energy bonds have posted a bigger recovery after crashing in March and April.

Quincy, Massachusetts-based Hite, founded by James Jampel in 2004, is now positioning itself for the next breakdown in energy, turning the most bearish in its history on oil and gas companies.

The industry is uniquely vulnerable because it would have no friends in a Biden administration, unlike sectors such as technology, said Jampel, the firm’s co-chief investment officer. He declined to comment on specific positions or performance.

“Energy securities will likely underperform non-energy securities if Biden wins in November, ” Jampel said.

“Earnings could be hurt by decreased volume and by increased costs, through regulation, taxation and competition for labour given Biden’s plan to employ workers to plug abandoned wells and otherwise work on green energy.”

Biden has developed a US$2 trillion plan –a “clean energy revolution” – that calls for a 100% carbon-free electricity industry by 2035.

That would drive more demand for solar panels, wind turbines and batteries.

By contrast, President Donald Trump has vowed to protect oil and gas jobs and continue to ease regulation, which could buoy the industry and investors should he prevail with voters.

Hite started its short carbon fund in 2018 to bet against stocks that stand to lose from the move toward decarbonisation.

These include the most overvalued integrated oil companies, coal producers and refiners, as well as entities highly dependent on carbon use, including airlines and gas stations.

Before this year, the fund advanced 6.6% in 2019 and 10.8% from June to December 2018, documents show. —Bloomberg

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