Mideast funds positive on Saudi Arabia after corruption crackdown

Saudi King Salman ordered the formation of a super committee to combat corruption in November. (SPA)
Updated 01 December 2017
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Mideast funds positive on Saudi Arabia after corruption crackdown

DUBAI: Middle East fund managers have become more positive toward Saudi Arabian equities after authorities launched a sweeping crackdown on corruption, a monthly Reuters poll showed on Thursday.
Forty-six percent of funds now expect to raise their allocations to the Saudi stock market in the next three months and none to reduce them, according to the poll of 13 leading managers, conducted over the past week.
That is the most bullish bias toward Saudi stocks since July, and compares with ratios of 31 percent and 8 percent in last month’s poll.
The crackdown alarmed the stock market because of its potential to damage the economy and undermine companies linked to suspects.
As a result, foreign investors were net sellers of stocks in the first three weeks of this month, exchange data shows. They were also concerned by rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, fueled by instability in Lebanon.
But many fund managers said they were looking past the short-term instability caused by the corruption crackdown to possibilities created by Saudi Arabia’s economic reform program, including privatizations, big new development projects and the plan to lift a ban on women driving next year.
“The crackdown on corruption that we witnessed earlier this month, along with escalated tensions between Iran and Saudi, pushes us to be cautious about our overall Saudi exposure,” said Dubai’s Arqaam Capital.
However, it added: “Short-term uncertainties are concerning, but our long-term view is net positive when putting together reform initiatives and liberalization efforts.”
The non-oil part of the Saudi economy is barely growing this year and is not expected to fare much better next year because of the planned introduction of a 5 percent value-added tax.
But the government is expected to increase spending on development projects moderately in 2018 — perhaps relying in part on funds recovered in the corruption crackdown — so some funds are starting to look toward an economic recovery in 2019.
Sachin Mohindra, portfolio manager at Abu Dhabi’s Invest AD, said that while economic, regulatory and social reforms in the region as a whole would sustain growth in the long term, for now “we expect regional investors to continue to exercise a lot of caution and volumes to remain subpar relative to history.”
 


Libya’s National Oil against paying ‘ransom’ to reopen El Sharara field

Updated 14 December 2018
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Libya’s National Oil against paying ‘ransom’ to reopen El Sharara field

  • Ransom payment would set dangerous precedent
  • NOC declared force majeure on exports on Monday

BENGHAZI: Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corp. (NOC) said it was against paying a ransom to an armed group that has halted crude production at the country’s largest oilfield.
“Any attempt to pay a ransom to the armed militia which shut down El Sharara (oilfield) would set a dangerous precedent that would threaten the recovery of the Libyan economy,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said in a statement on the company’s website.
NOC on Monday declared force majeure on exports from the 315,000-barrels-per-day oilfield after it was seized at the weekend by a local militia group.
The nearby El-Feel oilfield, which uses the same power supply as El Sharara, was still producing normally, a spokesman for NOC said, without giving an output figure. The field usually pumps around 70,000 bpd.
Since 2013 Libya has faced a wave of blockages of oilfields and export terminals by armed groups and civilians trying to press the country’s weak state into concessions.
Officials have tended to end such action by paying off protesters who demand to be added to the public payroll.
At El Sharara, in southern Libya, a mix of state-paid guards, civilians and tribesmen have occupied the field, camping there since Saturday, protesters and oil workers said. The protesters work in shifts, with some going home at night.
NOC has evacuated some staff by plane, engineers at the oilfield said. A number of sub-stations away from the main field have been vacated and equipment removed.
The occupiers are divided, with members of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) indicating they would end the blockade in return for a quick cash payment, oil workers say. The PFG has demanded more men be added to the public payroll.
The tribesmen have asked for long-term development funds, which might take time.
Libya is run by two competing, weak governments. Armed groups, tribesmen and normal Libyans tend to vent their anger about high inflation and a lack of infrastructure on the NOC, which they see as a cash cow booking billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues annually.