US oil rises above $70 for first time since November 2014 on Venezuela, Iran worries

Hedge funds cut their net long US crude futures and options positions in the week to May 1 by 11,825 contracts to 444,060, according to the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission. (Reuters)
Updated 07 May 2018
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US oil rises above $70 for first time since November 2014 on Venezuela, Iran worries

  • Worries over a looming decision on whether the US will walk away from a deal with Iran and instead re-imposes sanctions on Tehran keep market on edge
  • Some traders, however, are becoming cautious about ever higher oil prices

SINGAPORE: US oil prices rose above $70 a barrel on Monday for the first time since November 2014, as a deepening economic crisis in Venezuela threatened the country’s already tumbling oil supplies.
The concerns added to worries over a looming decision on whether the United States will walk away from a deal with Iran and instead re-imposes sanctions on Tehran, keeping international oil markets on edge.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 0.7 percent to trade at $70.18 per barrel at 0242 GMT, up 46 cents from their last settlement.
Brent crude oil futures were at $75.22 per barrel, up 35 cents, or 0.5 percent from their last close.
Analysts warned that the deepening economic crisis in major oil exporter Venezuela threatened to further crimp its production and exports.
Shannon Rivkin, investment director of Australia’s Rivkin Securities, said that oil prices had been driven up due to “growing concerns over the economic collapse of Venezuela and its oil industry, plus possible new sanctions against Iran from the Trump administration.”
US oil firm ConocoPhillips has moved to take key Caribbean assets of Venezuela’s state-run PDVSA to enforce a $2 billion arbitration award, actions that could further impair PDVSA’s declining oil production and exports.
Venezuela’s oil output has halved since the early 2000s to just 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd), as the South American country has failed to invest enough to maintain its petroleum industry.
Beyond Venezuela’s woes Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at futures brokerage AxiTrader, said “the big story this week is going to be about oil and the Iran Nuclear deal.” Most market participants expect Trump to withdraw from the pact, he said.
Iran re-emerged as a major oil exporter in 2016 after international sanctions against it were lifted in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.
Expressing doubts over Iran’s sincerity, Trump has threatened to walk away from the 2015 agreement by not extending sanctions waivers when they expire on May 12, which would likely result in a reduction of Iran’s oil exports.
Some traders, however, are becoming cautious about ever higher oil prices.
Hedge funds cut their net long US crude futures and options positions in the week to May 1 by 11,825 contracts to 444,060, according to the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Looming over markets is surging US output, which has soared by more than a quarter in the last two years, to 10.62 million bpd.
US output will likely rise further this year, toward or past Russia’s 11 million bpd, as its energy firms keep drilling for more.
US energy companies added nine oil rigs looking for new production in the week to May 4, bringing the total count to 834, the highest level since March 2015, energy services firm Baker Hughes said last Friday.


Dubai property developer Damac on hunt for land in Saudi Arabia

Hussain Sajwani
Updated 18 March 2019
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Dubai property developer Damac on hunt for land in Saudi Arabia

  • Brexit a “concern” for UK property market says Sajwani
  • Developer mulls investing “up to £500 million” on London project

LONDON: The Dubai-listed developer Damac says it is scouting for additional plots of land in Saudi Arabia, both in established cities and the Kingdom’s emerging giga-projects such as Neom.
Hussain Sajwani, chairman of Damac Properties, also said the company would look to invest up to £500 million ($660 million) on a second development in the UK, and that it is on track to deliver a record 7,000 or more units this year.
Amid a slowing property market in Dubai, Damac’s base, the developer is eying Saudi Arabia as a potential ground for expansion for its high-spec residential projects.
Damac has one development in Jeddah, and a twin-tower project in Riyadh — and Sajwani said it is looking for additional plots in the Kingdom.
“It’s a big market. It is changing, it is opening up, so we see a potential there … We are looking,” he said.
“In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is the biggest economy … They have some very ambitious projects, like the Neom city and other large projects. We’re watching those and studying them very carefully.”
The $500 billion Neom project, which was announced in 2017, is set to be a huge economic zone with residential, commercial and tourist facilities on the Red Sea coast.
Sajwani said doing business in Saudi Arabia was “a bit more difficult or complicated” that the UAE, but said the country is opening up, citing moves to allow women to drive and reopen cinemas.
He was speaking to Arab News in Damac’s London sales office, opposite the Harrods department store in Knightsbridge. The office, kitted out in plush Versace furnishings, is selling units at Damac’s first development in the UK, the Damac Tower Nine Elms London.
The 50-storey development is in a new urban district south of the River Thames, which is also home to the US Embassy and the famous Battersea Power Station, which is being redeveloped as a residential and commercial property.
Work on Damac's tower is underway and is due to complete in late 2020 or early 2021, Sajwani said.
“We have sold more than 60 percent of the project,” he said. “It’s very mixed, we have (buyers) from the UK, from Asia, the Middle East.”
Damac’s first London project was launched in 2015, the year before the referendum on the UK exiting the EU — the result of which has had a knock-on effect on the London property market.
“Definitely Brexit has cause a lot of concern, people are not clear where the situation will go. Overall, the market has suffered because of Brexit,” Sajwani said.
“It’s going to be difficult for the coming two years at least … unless (the UK decides) to stay in the EU.”
Despite the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit, Sajwani said Damac was looking for additional plots of land in London, both in the “golden triangle” — the pricey areas of Mayfair, Belgravia and Knightsbridge, which are popular with Gulf investors — and new residential districts like Nine Elms.
Sajwani is considering an investment of “up to £500 million” on a new project in the UK capital.
“We are looking aggressively, and spending a lot of time … finding other opportunities,” he said. “Our appetite for London is there.”
Damac is also considering other international property markets for expansion, including parts of Europe and North American cities like Toronto, Boston, New York and Miami, Sajwani said.
The international drive by Damac comes, however, amid a tough property market in the developer’s home market of Dubai.
Damac in February reported that its 2018 profits fell by nearly 60 percent, with its fourth-quarter profit tumbling by 87 percent, according to Reuters calculations.
Sajwani — whose company attracted headlines for its partnership with the Trump Organization for two golf courses in Dubai — does not see any immediate recovery in the emirate’s property market, or Damac’s financial results.
“(With) the market being soft, prices being under pressure, we are part of the market — we are not going to do better than last year,” he said. “This year and next year are going to be difficult years. But it’s a great opportunity for the buyers.”
But the developer said Dubai was “very strong fundamentally,” citing factors like its advanced infrastructure, safety and security, and low taxes.
In 2018, Damac delivered over 4,100 units — a record for the company — and this year, despite the difficult market, it plans to hand over even more.
“We’re expecting north of 7,000,” Sajwani said. “This year will be another record.”