Record oil glut stands at 3 billion barrels

Updated 18 November 2015

Record oil glut stands at 3 billion barrels

LONDON: The world is awash with oil having built record stockpiles in recent months and slowing demand growth combined with resilient non-OPEC supply could worsen the glut well into next year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said.
“Stockpiles of oil at a record 3 billion barrels are providing world markets with a degree of comfort,” the IEA said in a monthly report, adding brimming stocks offer an unprecedented buffer against geopolitical shocks or unexpected supply disruptions.
Oil prices have more than halved in the past 18 months with supply bolstered by US shale oil output and OPEC’s refusal to cede market share.
The IEA said global oil supplies breached 97 million barrels per day in October, up 2.0 million from a year earlier, as non-OPEC output recovered from lower levels in the previous month.
And even though lower oil prices will lead to a decline in US tight oil production next year, it will take months to clear the market’s glut, the IEA said.
“This massive cushion has inflated even as the global oil market adjusts to $50 per barrel. Demand growth has risen to a five-year high of nearly 2 million bpd... But gains in demand have been outpaced by vigorous production from OPEC and resilient non-OPEC supply — with Russian output at a post-Soviet record and likely to remain robust in 2016 as well,” the IEA said.
On Thursday, OPEC said in its monthly report that inventories in developed economies were showing their largest excess, relative to the five-year average, in at least 10 years.
A stock overhang that first developed in the United States due to soaring production has now spread across developed nations as well as China and India, the IEA said.
“This surplus crude provides some relief, with OPEC’s spare production buffer stretched thin as Gulf producers pump at near record rates,” the IEA said.

DISTILLATE INVENTORIES
“The shock absorber provided by oil stocks is no longer restricted to just crude. As refineries ran flat out to meet soaring demand for gasoline in top consumers the United States and China, distillate inventories ballooned as a consequence.”
High stocks could protect the market from a supply crunch should there be a lengthy spell of cold temperatures.
“But the current forecast is for a mild winter in Europe and the US If it turns out to be true, bulging stock levels will add further pressure and oil market bears may choose not to hibernate,” the IEA said.

EASING DEMAND GROWTH
Meanwhile, world demand growth is forecast to ease closer to a long-term trend of 1.21 million bpd in 2016 from a very high 1.82 million bpd this year.
“The impact of oil’s steep price plunge on end users is unlikely to be repeated and economic conditions are forecast to remain problematic in countries such as China,” the IEA said.
The IEA said that despite the resilience of producers such as Russia, non-OPEC supply is forecast to contract by more than 600,000 bpd next year.
US light tight oil, the driver of non-OPEC growth, is expected to decline by 600,000 bpd next year, versus previous expectations of contraction by 400,000 bpd.
“Record-high output in Russia provides a partial offset. Russian producers are favoring developments that boost output in the near term, while the rouble’s depreciation and Russia’s oil taxation system are neutralizing the impact of lower prices and spending curbs,” it said.
The IEA raised its forecast for 2016 call on OPEC supply by 200,000 bpd to 31.3 million.
It sees the call on OPEC in the second half of 2016 rising by 1.4 million bpd from the first half to 32 million bpd, which is higher than the group’s current production.
A market share battle between Russia and OPEC producers in Europe is intensifying. Iraq has overtaken Saudi Arabia as the second-largest seller and Iran has already lined up buyers for its oil for when sanctions are lifted.
The IEA cited market sources on Friday as saying Tehran would be able to sell at least an extra 400,000 bpd to buyers in Asia and Europe once sanctions are lifted, including to refiners in Italy, Greece and Spain who prefer to use Iranian crude as their baseload feedstock.
“For this reason, producers are likely to grow still more competitive on pricing,” the IEA said.
“Sour crude markets appear especially oversupplied with discounts versus sweet grades widening. Europe is awash with competing sour crudes from the FSU (former Soviet Union) and Middle East and US sour crudes remained depressed by refinery maintenance,” the IEA said.


EXCLUSIVE: Emirati tycoon Khalaf Al-Habtoor plans multimillion-dollar Saudi leisure project

Updated 19 January 2020

EXCLUSIVE: Emirati tycoon Khalaf Al-Habtoor plans multimillion-dollar Saudi leisure project

  • In an exclusive interview, the Al-Habtoor boss reveals his views on the Kingdom, the UAE economy, Trump and Iran

A word often used to describe Khalaf Al-Habtoor — founder and chairman of Al-Habtoor Group, and one of the Middle East’s most venerable business leaders — is “forthright.”

His tweets, TV broadcasts and public statements all display a quality of candid outspokenness rare in senior business leadership in the Arab world.

In the course of an early morning conversation at his headquarters in Dubai last week, he was forthright on a host of subjects, ranging from ambitious expansion plans in Saudi Arabia to the challenges faced by the UAE economy and the global geopolitical scene.

Al-Habtoor is not a man given to diffidence, though he said he would not be sharing his views with the “global elite” preparing to travel to the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos next week. “We leave that for the really big people. It’s really entertainment rather than anything else,” he joked.

Entertainment and leisure have been the mainstays of the Al-Habtoor business empire, which is as old as the UAE itself and one of the country’s best-known brands, with interests in construction, real estate, motor distribution and education.

The group has hotel operations in Europe and the US, but the chairman is now looking at Saudi Arabia as a major avenue for expansion, with a multimillion-dollar investment project planned for the Kingdom. The opportunities are mind-boggling, he told Arab News.

“I call Saudi Arabia a continent rather than a country. It has history before Moses and Abraham,” he said.

“We’re seeing now on TV something we’ve never seen before — we see green fields, we see skiing, we see sun and desert. You can’t believe this is the Arabian Peninsula,” he added.

“That makes it very attractive to every tourist or investor because they have variety, because you’re not restricted to one area or sector where you want to build something. You have a choice as to what you can do.”

Al-Habtoor has chosen — in partnership with the Saudi tourism authorities — to back a huge leisure and recreation project outside Riyadh.

It will draw on the successful Habtoor City development in his native Dubai but on a much bigger scale: Up to 7 million square meters of hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail and residential facilities, and — imagine it — lakes and beaches. “You’ll ask me now where does the beach come from in Riyadh. We’ll create it,” he said.

The project is still at the planning stage and subject to final approval from all parties.

It will borrow some of the elements from the successful Habtoor City development in Dubai, notably a Saudi version of the spectacular theatrical production La Perle. But it will not be a straightforward copy of the Dubai attraction, nor indeed of the Dubai development strategy.

“In Dubai, we don’t have oil. If we were dependent on oil, we wouldn’t be like this now. Saudi Arabia has a bigger population — 30 million people, 90 percent of them Saudi, who want to enjoy their lives and their history,” he said.

Born:

• Dubai, UAE.

Education:

• Al-Shaab School, Bur Dubai.

Career:

• Founder and chairman, Al-Habtoor Group.

“We in the rest of the Gulf haven’t seen this history, and I personally would like to go and see this history and see Riyadh, the Eastern Province and the Red Sea.”

Al-Habtoor believes that the Kingdom can use the lessons of Dubai’s development, especially in creating a more liberal social and cultural environment in what is generally regarded as a more conservative country.

“The word ‘conservative’ needs some explanation. The people of Saudi and the UAE are from the same background, the same family. We’re related. When they visit us, they see that,” he said.

“The original people of the UAE are conservative by background, too, but they also enjoy going to restaurants, to the movies, to the theater. They want to go everywhere. They want to be free,” he added, while allowing that there are limitations to freedom.

“Freedom doesn’t mean you should abuse your country, your people or the authorities. You have to protect your culture by educating other people.”

On the question of whether alcohol could ever be served in Saudi Arabia as it is in Habtoor’s UAE establishments, he replied:  “To be honest, I can’t comment on that because I don’t know what their plan is for that.

“But everything is changing, everything is possible,” he added.

The Vision 2030 “masterplan” is changing perceptions of the Kingdom, he said. “It really is an excellent strategy. Everything is clear and transparent. There is a huge future for Saudi Arabia as far as investment and visitors and tourists are concerned.”

Al-Habtoor Group has interests in many sectors of the UAE economy, and from this position the chairman is well qualified to give an authoritative opinion on the challenges facing the country as it prepares for the Expo 2020 business exhibition.

The most pressing worry for economic analysts has been the oversupply of residential and hotel developments, and rising prices that some believe are forcing expatriate workers out of the UAE.

“Well, 2018 wasn’t a very good year, and 2019 was also very slow in the beginning, but by the end of the fourth quarter you could see the signs of improvement in the market. You could see it in retail, things were moving. In the land department, people were buying and selling land and real estate,” he said.

In his car-leasing business, in real estate, luxury cars and his education business, he saw signs that the UAE economy was picking up again. “Definitely. I can see improvement,” he said.

But the volume cars business was lagging, reflecting different spending patterns by expats who often now choose to rent a car long term rather than buy. The rising cost of living was also a big factor, he said.

“Everything is becoming more expensive. The only cheap thing in the country is hotel rooms — they’re among the cheapest in the world,” he added.

“There are too many hotel rooms and residential developments, and it’s not recommended that we should build more.”

The UAE government has taken some measures to limit supply of real estate and hotel projects, which Al-Habtoor thinks is a good thing.

But the introduction of VAT was, in his view, a damaging economic mistake that should be rectified immediately.

“I think it should be cancelled, and also all the money taken should be refunded. The idea of VAT is wrong in my country for the time being. Maybe in the future,” he said.

He would prefer to see the cancellation of sales tax and the scrapping of government fees for services such as visas and business licenses, replaced by a standard rate of income tax.

“I’d recommended they stop all the fees and VAT and let them take from income, like Britain, for example,” he said.

In international affairs, his opinion of US President Donald Trump has wavered between condemnation of his policy to ban travel from some Muslim countries, to warm approval of his current policy toward the Middle East.

Now Al-Habtoor seems overwhelmingly positive on Trump and would like to see him re-elected.

“I said that we need a businessman rather than a politician to lead the world. But whatever he said in the past I think it was just to get elected, and a lot of his supporters didn’t know about us, the Arabs,” Al-Habtoor said.

“They don’t know whether we were terrorists or good people. There are a lot of naive people in the US.”

In particular, he is a firm supporter of Trump’s recent policy toward Iran, though he feels that US sanctions could be better focused.

“If Trump wants to make (Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali) Khamenei and his gangs starve to death, he can do that. So I can’t understand why he isn’t doing that,” Al-Habtoor said.

“There are sanctions, but he’s not killing the rich people. They still eat caviar and the best steaks while the poor people are starving.”

On the US killing of Qassem Soleimani, Al-Habtoor is in complete agreement that it was the right thing to do, but hinted that he believed there was Iranian collusion in the attack.

“It should’ve happened a long time ago. He was the biggest criminal on earth. I think maybe the Iranians wanted him gone, too, otherwise how could the Americans have tracked him? But what happened is good, it doesn’t matter who did it,” Al-Habtoor said.

He is adamant that there should be no further escalation in regional tensions, but believes the next big threat will come from Hezbollah, Iran’s ally in Lebanon.

“I think Hezbollah is more powerful than Iran, and I think (Hezbollah leader) Hassan Nasrallah is the biggest threat to peace in the region,” Al-Habtoor said with forthright finality.