More parties pulled at London oil week due to coronavirus

By Julia Payne, Dmitry Zhdannikov and Ahmad Ghaddar
FILE PHOTO: Pump jacks operate at sunset in Midland

By Julia Payne, Dmitry Zhdannikov and Ahmad Ghaddar

LONDON (Reuters) - The list of parties at London's International Petroleum Week, one of the world's biggest oil industry gatherings, continues to shrink as hosts such as ExxonMobil and Azerbaijan's SOCAR cancel events due to the coronavirus outbreak, trading sources said.

IP Week is a key annual oil traders' gathering that takes place in February. Oil majors, national oil companies and trading firms host receptions for networking throughout the week, which is scheduled this year for Feb. 24-27.

Spooked by the outbreak, several oil companies based in Asia said last week they would skip IP Week.

Oil major BP <BP.L> then cancelled all events along with storage company Vopak <VOPA.AS> and inspection company Bureau Veritas <BVI.PA>.

Others are now following suit.

ExxonMobil <XOM.N>, SOCAR, Royal Dutch Shell <RDSa.L> and PetroChina joint venture PetroIneos, and Polish refiner PKN Orlen <PKN.WA> are the latest to cancel receptions this week.

SOCAR's event typically draws more than 1,000 people.

Shell hosts several receptions, and so far only its fuel oil event has been cancelled, traders specified.

"IP Week reception scheduled for February 25 at the Savoy (hotel) is cancelled due to recent developments concerning the spread of the coronavirus," SOCAR said in a note to attendees.

A spokesman for Exxon said one part of its business had cancelled IP Week-related activities, without providing details. A spokesman for Shell did not immediately comment.

IP Week organiser, the Energy Institute, said the main conference was "full steam ahead", but added that "common sense precautions are being taken at the venue as regards coronavirus" and delegates should follow UK government advice on the virus.

Commodities pricing agency Argus, which also runs a series of events as part of IP Week, said it was planning to go ahead with them, though a spokeswoman added: "It's a developing situation and things could change."

S&P Global Platts, another IP Week event organiser, will proceed with its oil and energy forum as planned, but "will continue to monitor government advice in the coming days, and will adjust plans if necessary", a spokeswoman said.

China reported its fewest new coronavirus infections since January on Tuesday and its lowest daily death toll for a week, but the World Health Organization said data suggesting the epidemic had slowed should still be viewed with caution.

Among others, Spain's Repsol <REP.MC> has decided not to send a delegation, traders said. Repsol did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"The avalanche is rolling down the hill," one source said, referring the lengthening list of cancelled meetings and parties.


(Reporting By Julia Payne, Ahmad Ghaddar and Dmitry Zhdannikov; additional reporting by Olga Yagova and Shadia Nasralla, Editing by Jan Harvey and Mike Harrison)