Tuesday, 17 September, 2019

New Saudi oil minister says no radical change in policy coming

A production facility of Saudi Aramco's Shaybah A production facility of Saudi Aramco's Shaybah
Jean Garcia | 13 September, 2019, 06:39

The irony is he's having to rely on oil in order to break the oil habit.

Oil prices rose on Wednesday after an industry report showed that crude stockpiles in the USA fell last week by more than twice the amount that analysts had forecast.

The Schork Report Publisher Stephen Schork on the oil industry and the Saudi Aramco IPO's future.

A handout picture provided by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), on September 9, 2019, shows the newly appointed Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman giving oath in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah the previous night. Nevertheless, this Thursday's meeting of the OPEC+ Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee in Abu Dhabi, as well as Prince Abdulaziz's commitment to maintain Saudi policy, are keeping the market focused on production curbs.

But the IPO has failed to meet its 2018 deadline due to prevailing low oil prices that has also pushed investors to debate whether Aramco is really worth that much. That could prove hard.

Morgan Stanley last month lowered its oil price and demand forecasts for the rest of the year, citing a weaker economic outlook, faltering demand and higher shale oil output.

Dan Brouillette, a deputy USA energy secretary who attended Monday's event, said he hoped Saudi Arabia would instead choose to go with a so-called "123 Agreement" like the United Arab Emirates.

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Vision 2030, which the crown prince unveiled in April 2016, aims to develop public-service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism, and to steer the Saudi economy away from its dependence on oil and gas, which now accounts for about half of its gross domestic product.

Ellen Wald, the author of Saudi Inc. "Also, invited them to invest in the Indian steel sector", he said. "Many of their investments seem much more like those of a venture capital firm as opposed to a traditional sovereign wealth fund".

Other analysts believed Falih's removal was more likely to be related to his perceived lack of enthusiasm for the delayed public offering of Saudi Aramco, the centrepiece of Prince Mohammed's transformation plan and expected to be the biggest in history.

In a Bloomberg News interview late Sunday, Suhail Al-Mazroue, United Arab Emirates oil minister, disclosed that the revamp "does not mean a change in strategy".

Prince Abdulaziz is King Salman's fourth son and an older half-brother to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been pushing to diversify the Saudi economy away from its dependence on oil revenue. "There is a degree of concern that what the crown prince wants to invest in are highly imaginative, or rather overimaginative, projects which won't actually change Saudi Arabia in the way that he wants it to".

Still, that's considerably below the $80-$85 a barrel that analysts say is needed to balance Saudi Arabia's budget.

"The weekend announcement of a change in leadership within the Saudi oil ministry was accompanied by strong suggestions that production restraint would continue until the market achieves a better balance", Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates, said in a note.

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