Gulf exporters to reap oil dividend as battle for Asia market share heats up

A tariff war between China and the US may damage global trade but could benefit Gulf oil exports. (Shutterstock)
Updated 17 August 2018
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Gulf exporters to reap oil dividend as battle for Asia market share heats up

  • Chinese exports to US fall
  • IEA ups demand forecast

LONDON: China is expected to buy more oil from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf producers as it seeks to replace US supply amid a worsening trade war with Washington.
Although China last week omitted US crude from a list of a retaliatory tariffs, analysts told Arab News that the Chinese were cutting forward orders for US oil in case the trade war escalates.
Richard Mallinson, co-founder of London consultancy Energy Aspects, said: “Chinese buyers, anticipating that crude and LNG could go on the list if tensions escalate further, are looking to alternative sources.”
Mallinson said that Chinese buyers wanted to avoid having significant amounts of US oil sitting on tankers in the middle of the ocean, which would be hit with tariffs when unloaded at Chinese ports.
“There is definitely an opportunity for Middle East producers here, and particularly the biggest, Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Andrew Critchlow, head of energy news (EMEA) at S&P Global Platts, told Arab News that there was every likelihood of more demand from China for non-US oil and “Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries were the place to get it.”
OPEC already provides 56 percent of China’s oil imports, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). The US has also been exporting increasing levels to the Asia powerhouse.
A report by the Houston Chronicle on Aug. 13, said that US crude exports to China surged from about 22,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2016 to almost 400,000 bpd last year and early in 2018, accounting for about 20 percent of all US crude shipments.
This summer, those volumes fell below 200,000 barrels daily, said the report.
Critchlow said that the Kingdom was currently producing about
10.5 million bpd with spare capacity of around 2 million bpd, although the closer you get to that number, the more difficult it was to extract and process, he said.
Russia could also ramp up production, but not as much as KSA, said Critchlow.
“We now have the IEA upping its demand forecast for 2019. They have increased their OPEC barrels estimate by a few hundred thousand barrels a day and by half a million a day by 2019 (for the OPEC 15),”
he said.
But the scope for increased global export potential from the Gulf was also being driven by anticipated tighter supply after the reimposition of US sanctions against Iran later this year.
Still, there was a danger of demand erosion the longer the trade wars continued, and especially if there was further escalation.
Shakil Begg, head of Thomson Reuters oil research in London, warned that by the second half of 2019, global GDP could be cut if world trade levels contracted.
That would lead to a sharp fall in the price of crude, and even herald a US recession that could spill into Europe, he told Arab News.
But Critchlow made the crucial point that the big competition in the oil market today “is to win a bigger share of the Chinese and Asian market, including India.”
He said: “That’s where the battle for market share will take place over the next decade. Also, as Iranian barrels are lost, customers in nations such as China, South Korea, India and Japan will look to the GCC and others to step in.”
US exporters will still be a big force to be reckoned with, he said. The IEA has predicted that the US will overtake KSA and Russia as the largest producer by as early as 2019.
Mallinson said: “At the end of this year and the beginning of next, the market is going to get extremely tight. And the Saudis will have to pump at much higher levels.
“When you’ve got buyers restricted from where they go, it does create alternatives to move upwards,” said Mallinson.
But he warned that if the trade war worsens, it could hobble economic growth.
“These are the two largest economies in the world and it is not good news for them getting into a conflict like this.
“But even with a severe economic slowdown, we still see a tight oil market next year. Iran and sanctions are the biggest driver.”
Mallinson said that there were two other constraints: Underinvestment in capital projects outside the US, and infrastructure bottlenecks
in America.
“Those factors are big enough on the supply side to outweigh the possibility of a sharp slowdown of growth on the demand side,” he said.


Turkey cuts investment criteria for foreigners seeking citizenship

Updated 19 September 2018
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Turkey cuts investment criteria for foreigners seeking citizenship

  • Turkey made it easier for foreigners to become Turkish citizens by cutting the financial and investment criteria required for citizenship
  • Foreigners now need only to have $500,000 deposits in Turkish banks

ANKARA: Turkey on Wednesday made it easier for foreigners to become Turkish citizens by cutting the financial and investment criteria required for citizenship, according to a decree from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Foreigners now need only to have $500,000 deposits in Turkish banks, down from $3 million before while fixed capital investment was reduced from $2 million to $500,000 dollars, the decree published in the Official Gazette said.
Meanwhile individuals can obtain citizenship if they employ 50 people, down from the previous 100, while those who own property worth $250,000 can become Turkish citizens, compared to the previous value necessary of $1 million.
The decree is the latest in a series by Erdogan in what appears to be a bid to prop up the embattled Turkish lira and the economy which slowed down in the second quarter.
Last week, the president ordered that contracts for the sale, rent and leasing of property in or indexed to foreign currencies would not be allowed.
The Turkish currency fell against the US dollar drastically in August after one of the most bitter spats between Ankara and Washington over the detention of an American pastor.
The lira lost nearly a quarter in value against the greenback in August.
But there had been investor concerns over domestic economic policy and Erdogan’s continued opposition to high interest rates, although the central bank aggressively hiked its main policy rate 6.25 percent to 24 percent last week.
Erdogan will later meet with representatives of American companies working in Turkey at 1500 GMT at his presidential palace in Ankara, according to the presidential website.
He will meet with 30 senior executives, according to HaberTurk daily, including representatives from Microsoft and Google.