Pertamina Seeks to Cut Asset Risks as Rupiah Slides

Pertamina is seeking government approval to divest assets to help shield it from rising crude oil prices and a rupiah that is at its lowest level in more than two and a half years. (Reuters Photo/Darren Whiteside)

Jakarta. State energy company Pertamina is seeking government approval to divest assets to help shield it from rising crude oil prices and a rupiah that is at its lowest level in more than two and a half years.

While higher oil prices have yielded Pertamina better returns from its oil and gas output, they have also increased the fuel bill for the net oil importer, especially amid the slumping rupiah.

Indonesia has promised not to raise some consumer fuel and electricity prices ahead of elections in 2019, but the populist policy has also dented Pertamina's finances and cut its means of spending on much-needed infrastructure.

The government, which sets Pertamina's fuel prices, wants to guard Pertamina's finances from crude prices that are expected to climb 46 percent above the $48 per barrel assumed in this year's budget, and a 7 percent weakening of the rupiah against the dollar this year.

Pertamina wants to divest to help maintain its long-term financial condition, and to avoid risking too much in any one particular asset class, Adiatma Sarjito, vice president of corporate communication, said in a statement late on Thursday (19/07).

"Like the saying 'don't put [all] your eggs in one basket,' we [plan to] minimize risk based on business and legal studies."

It was not immediately clear how much Pertamina targets to sell or over what time period, but the company would maintain control over the assets, Sarjito said.

Pertamina's total assets climbed 8 percent to $51.2 billion in 2017 from a year earlier, while its profits slid 19 percent to $2.5 billion over the same period, its audited earnings report shows.

Deputy State-Owned Enterprise Minister Fajar Harry Sampurno said this week that his office had approved Pertamina's proposal to "take steps" to shield itself from rising oil prices.

He referred to a letter from his ministry to Pertamina directors that in principle approved their plans to reduce the company's interests in some upstream projects.

It also approved Pertamina plans to spin off its Cilacap and Balikpapan refinery businesses to its subsidiaries, and review company policies that "significantly" impact its finances.

Indonesia's upstream oil and gas regulator (SKKMigas) said it supported the moves, and "hopes that through these strategic steps Pertamina can make more aggressive efforts in exploration for new oil and gas reserves, and be more efficient in carrying out its upstream work programs."

Pertamina, however, has cut its 2018 capital spending budget by 28 percent to around $4 billion from $5.6 billion, Investor Daily newspaper reported on Thursday, quoting Gigih Prakoso, director of investment planning and risk management at Pertamina.

Indonesia at the same time plans to increase spending on energy subsidies by Rp 69 trillion ($4.8 billion) to Rp 163.5 trillion to keep some fuel prices and electricity tariffs unchanged throughout the year, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said on Thursday.

The rupiah hit 14,500 to the US dollar on Friday, its lowest level since October 2015.

Brent crude cost more than Rp 1 million a barrel in July, the highest since mid-2014 just before global oil prices slumped. In comparison, Brent priced in US dollars is at its highest since 2016.


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