Saudi Aramco to shift more crude production to petrochemicals

Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said that the Saudi Arabian government remained committed to an initial public offering of the company. (AFP)
Updated 23 October 2018
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Saudi Aramco to shift more crude production to petrochemicals

  • Aramco has been boosting its investments in refining and petrochemicals to secure new markets for its crude
  • Aramco hired JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley to advise on a potential acquisition of as much as a 70 percent stake in SABIC

RIYADH: Saudi Aramco aims to allocate some 2-3 million barrels per day of its crude oil production to petrochemicals, CEO Amin Nasser said on Tuesday, a sign the state energy group is hedging its bets against a possible demand slowdown.
Aramco has been boosting its investments in refining and petrochemicals to secure new markets for its crude, as it sees growth in chemicals central to its downstream expansion strategy.
The company is working on buying a stake in Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC), the world’s fourth largest petrochemical maker, as part of plans to become a leader in the chemical industry, Nasser told an investment conference in Riyadh.
But anti-trust regulations abroad will mean that the company’s planned acquisition of a controlling stake in SABIC will take time, he said, noting that SABIC has a presence in 50 countries around the world.
Aramco hired JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley to advise on a potential acquisition of as much as a 70 percent stake in SABIC, currently held by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, sources said in July.
Nasser said the Saudi Arabian government was still committed to an initial public offering of Aramco, while the timing depended on market conditions and other factors. He added that Aramco could not list while the SABIC deal was ongoing.
Nasser also said bankers had not expressed any concerns about a recent rise in Saudi funding costs ahead of the company’s potential acquisition of the SABIC stake.
“Aramco is well positioned financially,” Nasser told reporters on the sidelines of an investment conference in Riyadh. “So far we have no issue to finance any of our projects. I don’t anticipate seeing any issues in financing.”
He also said it would take Aramco three months to reach maximum oil production capacity of 12 million bpd, if needed.
Aramco plans to raise its refining capacity to between 8 million and 10 million barrels per day, from some 5 million bpd now, and double its petrochemicals production by 2030. Aramco pumps around 10.7 million bpd of crude oil.


Davos Diary: Central Lounge — the networking hub of the universe

Updated 23 January 2019
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Davos Diary: Central Lounge — the networking hub of the universe

  • My daily tactic has been to get on the shuttle from Klosters for the 20-minute trip to Davos, head straight to the Congress Hall, and shack up in the Central Lounge
  • As long as you can keep hold of your table and seat for the day, you have a ringside location for the best flesh-pressing in the world

DAVOS: I am penning these lines from the networking epicenter of the universe, the veritable “ground zero” of schmoozing — the Central Lounge of the Congress Hall at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos.

Although some of the bigger beasts of the annual jamboree in the snow have stayed away this year — we all miss you, Donald and Vladimir — you would not know it from the stellar crowd in this venue. Virtually everyone who is anyone in the world of business, politics and media is here.

It is a journalist’s dream. My daily tactic has been to get on the shuttle from Klosters for the 20-minute trip to Davos as early as possible, head straight to the Congress Hall, and shack up in the Central Lounge.

As long as you can keep hold of your table and seat for the day, which is not always possible given the appetite for space here, you have a ringside location for the best flesh-pressing in the world.

For some reason, the Middle East contingent loves the Central Lounge, so you can hear the familiar sounds of Arabic and watch the chance encounters, the planned bilaterals and the (sometimes) awkward confrontations that take place when Saudis, Emiratis, Qataris and Egyptians are enclosed in a small space.

From time to time, the really big hitters pass through on their way to one of the upstairs meeting rooms. These people, such as head of state Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and global superstars including Tony Blair, bring in their train the full entourage — bodyguards, advisers and attendant media — and leave a virtual shock wave in their wake. Questions from journalists are invariably declined with a tight-lipped shake of the head.

But others are far more chatty. The rules of the Central Lounge are clear: It is Chatham House, off the record, deep background only, unless you manage to get the agreement of person with whom you are chatting to use something they said for publication. In my experience, that happens rarely.

But perhaps that is a good thing, because it puts these celebrities at their ease, and they open up in a way they never would if there was a camera or a tape-recorder in front of them.

The encounters come faster than an Alpine avalanche. Sometimes you’re talking to one eminent business leader, and you see over their shoulder another, even more interesting, personality. The etiquette is that you fake an urgent phone call and head off to the new attraction.

In the space of 30 minutes this morning, I had fascinating conversations with Hussain Sajwani, chairman of Dubai real estate group Damac, followed by Jose Silva, the relatively new CEO of Dubai’s luxury hotels group Jumeirah. Then came Essa Kazim, governor of the Dubai International Financial Center.

Around and in between these fascinating encounters, there was a clutch of Saudi ministers, the Kingdom’s award-winning film director Haifaa Al-Mansour, the leading historian of the oil industry Daniel Yergin, and many financial “masters of the universe,” as well as a veritable constellation of glamorous media people.

Davos is famed for the quality of its night-time networking — which will be the subject of a subsequent diary — but for daylight schmoozing, leave me in the Central Lounge.

Frank Kane is an award-winning business journalist based in Dubai. Twitter: @frankkanedubai