China trade truce may help give US LNG RM119.1b boost

New York • China’s appetite for US liquefied natural gas (LNG) may be about to get a lot bigger after the two nations agreed to pull back from the brink of a trade war.

If China makes a substantial commitment to buying US LNG, it could bring US$30 billion (RM119.1 billion) back into the country, according to a Height Securities LLC report on Monday. The White House said on May 19 that China will “significantly increase purchases” of US goods, while Beijing’s special envoy said the world’s two largest economies had agreed to a trade truce.

“China represents an enormous economic opportunity for US LNG,” Katie Bays, an analyst at Height in Washington, said in a note to clients on Monday. The fuel “will likely see dramatic demand growth in the coming years, during which time the

US is also expected to dominate global export markets”.

China represents a massive opportunity for US shale gas, with the nation set to become the world’s largest LNG importer in the next decade as it switches to the cleaner-burn- ing fuel from coal.

Already, China is the third-biggest buyer of LNG from Cheniere Energy Inc’s Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana, and it is poised to nab more cargoes from US shores as developers seek to build new export plants from the Gulf Coast to Alaska.

US LNG “makes sense from a Chinese point of view as well because they are experiencing very strong demand for gas as part of their efforts to improve air quality, and there are limited options for them”, Jason Feer, the head of business intelligence at Poten & Partners in Houston, said in an email.

In February, Cheniere — America’s first exporter of shale gas overseas — signed the country’s first long-term contract with China National Petroleum Corp for 25 years for a terminal under construction in Texas.

Cheniere shares gained as much as 6.2% on Monday, the biggest intraday gain in almost two years. Prices were up 0.6% to US$63.11 at 3:31pm yesterday.

China may provide the contracts needed for the so-called second wave of US LNG terminals, which include projects from NextDecade Corp and Pembina Pipeline Corp, Bays said. But neither LNG nor ethanol, which also stands to benefit from a trade truce, would provide a big enough export boost reduce the deficit by US$200 billion a year, according to Height. — Bloomberg