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Oil firms back in the black

Investors want to see oil companies striving for value rather than volume in the year ahead

This year's progressive rise in worldwide oil and gas mergers and acquisitions activity has built on 2016's recovery from the depths of the 2015 oil-price crash. The industry as a whole has shown increased discipline as oil prices have more than doubled since their early-2016 nadir. Companies are broadly aiming to be cash-positive at prices over $50 a barrel, targeting returns in the mid-teens for new projects and over 20% for brownfield expansion and consolidation projects. The mood is one of "cautious optimism", according to Wood MacKenzie corporate analyst Tom Ellacott. "I don't think you're going to see a surge of investment next year," he says. "You may see a small improvement." Invest

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