Water

Harvard Quietly Amasses California Vineyards—and the Water Underneath

This post is a bit off our normally beaten path but the parallels are interesting.

 

The university’s endowment manager, Harvard Management Co., was stealthily building a sizable grape-growing business on the Central Coast through entities including Brodiaea. With the land, it was acquiring rights to vast sources of water in a region where the earth’s warming is making the resource an ever-more-valuable asset.

In a warming planet, few resources will be more affected than water, as more-frequent droughts, storms and changes in evaporation alter a flow critical for drinking, farming and industry.

Even though there aren’t many ways to make financial investments in water, investors are starting to place bets. Buying arable land with access to it is one way. In California’s Central Coast, “the best property with the best water will sell for record-breaking prices,” says JoAnn Wall, a real-estate appraiser who specializes in vineyards, “and properties without adequate water will suffer in value.”

 

 

From the WSJ Archives

Texas Pacific Land Trust Offers A Get-Rich-Slow Opportunity

Oldy but goody here from 1998.  The modern owner has to wonder if Bregman’s quote around a “creeping buyout” will hold true from here.

“People are going to become less interested in ‘concept’ stocks that sell at hope times greed times infinity,” says Mr. Shaefer, who is also editor of the Investor’s Edge newsletter, which has pushed Texas Pacific. Instead, investors will “be looking for real underlying asset value in the companies they own.”

Mr. Shaefer says his fund bought an undisclosed stake in Texas Pacific in January 1997 at $27.63 a share, and he doesn’t plan to sell until the stock reaches at least $80. By his calculations, the underlying assets are worth about $100 a share right now.

At its current rate, the trust is buying back stock more quickly than it’s selling land. Between 1980 and 1995, the trust reduced its number of outstanding shares by 34% but reduced its land inventory only 8%, from 1.2 million acres to 1.1 million acres.

Steven Bregman, president of Horizon Asset Management in New York, has researched Texas Pacific for his firm’s Contrarian Research Report and believes the stock is worth buying. “It’s cheap,” he says. “As long as you want to hold it for a decade, you put it away and forget about it and get rich slowly.”

The buybacks, says Mr. Bregman, are “like a creeping buyout. It’s a snowball effect.”

 

 

Large Players Ramping Up Shale Production

WSJ: Oil Giants Start to Dominate U.S. Shale Boom

Some good stats and soundbites here on US onshore shale production.

Chevron’s output in the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico rose 80% for the year ended in September, eclipsing some of the small producers that spent years building up their fracking positions.

While many big oil companies were slow to fracking, bigger companies have tended to benefit as technology matures and drillers shift from exploration to large-scale production.  That trend is most apparent in the Permian Basin. Large companies including Exxon, Chevron, BP, Shell and Occidental this year are set to produce an average of about 600,000 barrels a day of crude in the region, up 54% from last year. By 2021, their output there will exceed 1.1 million barrels a day, or about 20% of the area’s total shale-related output, according to consulting firm Rystad Energy.

Pipeline access is another area where bigger companies fared better. As U.S. oil production soared above 11 million barrels a day, growth exceeded existing pipelines, forcing smaller companies to sell their oil at a discount. Crude sold in the Permian Basin was discounted by an average of $14 a barrel during the third quarter, according to S&P Global Platts. That differential has since contracted to about $5.