Saudi Aramco boss reveals gas and LNG ambitions amid petchems push

Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser, speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, said the company was eyeing potential gas and LNG acquisitions. (Reuters)
Updated 22 January 2019
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Saudi Aramco boss reveals gas and LNG ambitions amid petchems push

  • Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser: We are in discussions in different countries with a lot of partners. We are reviewing these opportunities to make final decisions in terms of investment
  • Amin Nasser: A lot of it is in partnerships with leading companies around the world and it is either in gas investment, LNG investment or both

London: Saudi Aramco is eyeing gas and LNG acquisitions as it also prepares for the potential purchase of the Kingdom’s biggest chemical maker, CEO Amin Nasser revealed on Tuesday.

He made the disclosure in an interview with Bloomberg TV on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“We are in discussions in different countries currently with a lot of partners. We are reviewing these opportunities to make final decisions in terms of investment,” Nasser said.

“A lot of it is in partnerships with leading companies around the world and it is either in gas investment, LNG investment or both.”

Aramco has also been in discussions with a credit rating agency ahead of a planned bond sale.

It comes ahead of the potential purchase of Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), the Kingdom’s biggest chemical maker and a key part of Aramco’s ambitions to grow its global petrochemicals business.

“We will decide soon how much we would like to take from the bond market. Definitely it is going to be an international bond. We are currently in discussion with regard to how much and where,” Nasser said.

He said that the purchase price for SABIC was still under discussion.

“We are in discussion currently with the Public Investment Fund about acquisition of 70 percent of the share of SABIC. We are in discussion with regard to the price at this stage,” he said.

Earlier this month Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said Aramco would issue bonds in the second quarter of 2019.

Aramco’s planned acquisition of SABIC is expected to involve buying all or nearly all of the 70 percent stake in the chemicals company held by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the Kingdom’s principal sovereign wealth fund.

Nasser said that there was no plan to acquire the 30 percent of the company that is currently publicly traded in Saudi Arabia.


Microsoft tops $1 trillion as it predicts more cloud growth

Updated 28 min 17 sec ago
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Microsoft tops $1 trillion as it predicts more cloud growth

BENGALURU/SAN FRANCISCO: Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday briefly topped $1 trillion in value for the first time after executives predicted continued growth for its cloud computing business.
The Redmond, Washington-based company beat Wall Street estimates for quarterly profit and revenue, powered by an unexpected boost in Windows revenue and brisk growth in its cloud business which has reached tens of billions of dollars in sales.
Microsoft shares rose 4.4% to $130.54 in late trading after the forecast issued on a conference call with investors, pushing the company ahead of Apple Inc’s $980 billion market capitalization. The companies and Amazon.com Inc. have taken turns in recent months to rank as the world’s most valuable US-listed company.
Microsoft’s stock has gained about 23% gain so far this year, after hitting a record high of $125.85 during regular trading hours.
Under Chief Executive Satya Nadella, the company has spent the past five years shifting from reliance on its once-dominant Windows operating system to selling cloud-based services.
Azure, Microsoft’s flagship cloud product, competes with market leader Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide computing power to businesses.
Growth in that unit slowed to 73% in the third quarter ended March 31 from 76% in the second quarter. Mike Spencer, Microsoft’s head of investor relations, said the decline was roughly in line with the company’s estimate.
Christopher Eberle, a senior equity analyst with Nomura, said that with Azure, “one should assume a slower rate of growth as we move forward, simply due to the law of large numbers.” Still, Azure will bring in $13.5 billion in sales in fiscal 2019 with an overall growth rate of 75%, he estimated. “I can’t name another company of that scale growing at these rates.”
Microsoft tops tech rivals such as Amazon in market capitalization on some days despite having less revenue, partly because most of its sales is to businesses, which tend to be steadier customers than consumers. A growing proportion of Microsoft’s software sales are billed as recurring subscription purchases, which are more reliable than one-time purchases.
Microsoft’s earnings per share of $1.14 beat expectations of $1 according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Windows licensing revenue from computer makers grew 9% year over year, beating expectations after a 5% decline in the previous quarter. Spencer said a shortage of Intel Corp. processor chips for PCs that many analysts expected to last into this summer had been resolved earlier than expected, allowing PC makers to ship more machines.
Microsoft’s “commercial cloud” revenue — which includes business use of Azure, Office 365 and LinkedIn — was $9.6 billion this quarter, up 41% from the previous year but down slightly from the 48% growth rate the previous quarter.
Microsoft’s so-called “intelligent cloud” unit, which contains its Azure services, posted revenue of $9.65 billion, above Wall Street estimates of $9.28 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood said that unit could reach $11.05 billion in revenue in the fiscal fourth quarter.
The “productivity and business process” unit that includes both Office as well as social network LinkedIn had $10.2 billion revenue versus expectations of $10.05 billion.
Microsoft’s latest results contained two weak spots.
Its gaming revenue was up only 5% versus 8% the quarter before, which Spencer attributed to less revenue from third-party game developers and the fact that many gamers are delaying purchases of Microsoft’s Xbox console because a new model is expected soon.
Sales of the company’s Surface hardware grew 21% versus 39% the quarter before, also because customers waited for updated hardware they expected to be released soon.
Total revenue rose 14% to $30.57 billion, beating analysts’ average estimate of $29.84 billion according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Net income rose to $8.81 billion, or $1.15 per share, from $7.42 billion, or 96 cents per share, a year earlier.