Today’s Finanical Express carries an interesting column by Vikram Mehta, Chairman of the Shell Group in India.
The following passage caught my eye:
“Success in the exploration and production of oil & gas requires a company to overcome three interlocking sets of probabilities. The probability that a given geologic structure contains hydrocarbons [let’s call this Event A]; the probability that hydrocarbons will be located [lets call this Event B], and the probability that once located, the find can be commercially exploited [let’s call this Event C].”
Vikram’s statement has vast practical implications for security analysts.
The market value of an asset is the present value of its expected future cash flows. Cash flows from an oil exploration company can be derived only out of hydrocarbons which can be commercially exploited. And for that to happen ALL of the above three events must happen.
Suppose that the probability of Event A happening is 40%, that of Event B happening is 20%, and that of Event C happening is 25%.
Then the probability of seeing cash flow which is valuable is 0.40 x 0.20 x 0.25 or 0.02. That comes to just 2%!
I wonder if the market participants think in those terms before valuing oil exploration stocks.
The man who said that “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” was wrong.
He should have said “a chain has to be weaker than its weakest link.”