NEW YORK (The Street) --With prices of crude oil at fresh five-year lows, investors are wondering when Saudi Arabia might finally cry uncle, cut oil production and reverse the dramatic slide in oil prices.
Yet Mexico, a non-OPEC country and third largest exporter of oil to the U.S. behind Canada and the Saudi Arabia, could have nearly as much near-term influence on oil prices as Saudi Arabia if they cut their own production. Considering that the Mexican peso is tanking and political unrest has escalated in recent weeks, the odds of Mexico moving to lower oil output before the Saudis are increasing by day. And the country has a big incentive to boost oil prices -- lifting the value of assets it's selling in its effort to privatize the state-run petroleum industry.
Last month the Mexican government cut its 2014 growth forecast after the central bank dimmed the outlook for Latin America's second largest economy. This prompted selling in the Mexican peso which has only accelerated to two-year lows in recent sessions, as oil prices continue to plummet and export revenues decline further.
Interestingly enough, central bank Governor Agustin Carstens pinpointed the state-controlled energy industry as a bright spot to move the country in the right direction economically. However, with the recent 35% slide in crude oil prices, attracting investment may become challenging, something that would further deter Mexico's economic growth.
While the Saudis have the financial means to stomach lower oil prices better than most countries, Mexico's aging energy platform and infrastructure desperately needs crude oil prices to stabilize. In fact, the country enacted an aggressive energy reform bill last December.
The government, led by President Enrique Pena Nieto, also passed its most ambitious energy reform legislation in August in order to break its monopoly on oil and gas assets held by state-controlled PEMEX and attract billions of dollars of foreign investment.
Less than four months later, Mexico has already officially launched a $5 billion energy and infrastructure investment deal with China on top of a $14 billion investment deal that includes a heavy cooperation on energy between the two countries.
These moves show that Mexico is willing to do whatever it takes to explore new strategic energy deals and lower its reliance on the U.S. to import its oil. This also makes the case for cutting production and putting the brakes on the oil price skid even more intriguing.
In 2015, Mexico is expected to announce which oil fields will be auctioned off for public tender. The rapid decline of oil prices may now throw a monkey wrench into these plans, thus giving more credence to the idea that Mexico has an incentive to cut production and help reverse the price of crude oil, especially since production is at the lowest since 1995.
Keep in mind, E&P companies such as ExxonMobil (XOM) - Get Report and Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) have been considered frontrunners to pursue Mexican oil and gas projects. Refiners such as Valero(VLO) - Get Report and Tesoro (TSO) would likely benefit from the need to break-down heavy crude oil to create petroleum products, while oil service plays such as Schlumberger(SLB) - Get Report , Weatherford(WFT) - Get Report , and Halliburton(HAL) - Get Report will compete for deals stemming from the Mexican energy reform.
A more risky name to keep on the radar is Key Energy Services(KEG) - Get Report . The company has been a huge stock performance laggard this year but management highlighted Mexico in its December 3 Cowen & Co. presentation as an opportunity to diversify its revenue base.
With oil prices at the mercy of market forces and OPEC's inaction on output, these companies could all strategically act sooner than later in order to solidify deals with Mexico at a time when lower prices could derail the country's accelerated timeline to boost the energy sector.
If new strategic partnerships can't soon be reached with foreign companies even with weakness in oil prices, it could make even more sense for Mexico to cut production. This would help Pena Nieto and his plan to salvage the burgeoning Mexican energy industry, an industry that has watched the American shale revolution with enormous interest since fracking has reduced the country's exporting of oil to the U.S., Mexico's main energy trading partner.
So while many investors examine if the recent OPEC non-move on oil production was really retaliation for the U.S. energy boom, maybe we need to look at bit more closely at what's happening south of our own border, where the reality of cutting back production is actually more credible.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.