Opinion: Low oil prices – Groundhog Day?

Opinion: Peter Murray
Opinion: Peter Murray
Peter Murray
Opinion by Peter Murray

It’s cold out there, it’s always cold out there…. It seems like we are getting news of rate cuts and job threats every day at present. Our politicians seem to be on an endless loop exhorting collaboration, listening, unity and focus.

Fans of the cult film Groundhog Day will be able to relate to Phil Connors in all of this. In that 1990’s classic our hero was repeating Groundhog Day over and over again.

For the record, our much heralded Aberdeen Summit was held on Groundhog Day (2nd February).

How was it for you? Up there with the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather? Such news and events are enough to depress us.

Phil Connors was initially distracted by being stuck in his seemingly endless loop. He wasn’t where he expected to be, doing what he expected to be doing. But he got a grip. He set himself new goals and went after them.

Yes, my employment lawyer brethren are busy negotiating settlement agreements and my contracts team are busy documenting contract amendments (10 per cent cuts and the rest). However, I am also witnessing new companies being formed, new patents being applied for and new contracts being signed.

I can’t tell you how long the low oil price will last, but I can tell you some people aren’t waiting.

At least for many advisers, corporate deals are the oxygen of the industry. At the start of the year I was told it was going to be one of busy inactivity. Then I got my first deal over the line.

I admit the price was modest by $100 oil standards. Then came a distress sale, but a deal that should have been done years ago (regardless of the oil price). Then landed the game changing innovators – who got the premium innovators always deserve.

Have some deals stumbled? Absolutely.

But Aberdeen and this industry is far from being in hibernation.

Yes you can now get a hotel room here for less than you pay in Mayfair.

That’s a good thing.

The taxi drivers moan that they are not as busy as they were last year (before telling you their contractor sons are buying £650,000 houses, notwithstanding the 10% rate reductions).

Even lawyers are trying to work smarter.

This article is written on a tablet whilst waiting for a plane.

Belatedly voice dictation and Skype are also gaining traction amongst my kind. Working lean is in fashion.

If you are in need of a pep talk, a laugh, or both you could do worse than ordering Colombia Pictures’ Groundhog Day classic.

Fans will tell you Phil Connors’ Groundhog Day lasted somewhere between 38 days and 35 years. I can’t tell you how long the low oil price will last. It is not about how long it lasts. It is about what you do with it.

Peter Murray is a partner at Scottish law firm Ledingham Chalmers where he specialises in UK corporate law and international projects.