Saudi Arabia to restrain oil exports in March, confident cuts will stabilize market

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih and Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak attend a news conference at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)
Updated 14 February 2018

Saudi Arabia to restrain oil exports in March, confident cuts will stabilize market

LONDON: Saudi Arabia will restrain its oil exports in March despite lower domestic need for crude as the Kingdom pushes to eliminate fully the global oil glut and combat worries about a new cycle of oil price weakness.
Saudi Arabia will keep its crude exports below 7 million barrels per day (bpd) in March, despite a maintenance shutdown of the 400,000 bpd SAMREF refinery, the Saudi energy ministry said, confirming a plan given earlier by industry sources.
“Saudi Arabia remains focused on working down excess oil inventories,” a ministry spokesman said in a statement.
“Market volatility is a common concern for producers and consumers, and the Kingdom is committed to mitigating this volatility and moderating its negative impacts by responsibly meeting its pledges” under an OPEC-led supply cut deal.
OPEC and outside producers including Russia are reducing output to get rid of a supply glut. The pact began a year ago and has been extended until the end of 2018.
The cut has boosted oil prices, which in January topped $71 a barrel for the first time since 2014. But crude has since slid and hit a 2018 low of $61.76 this week, pressured by rising US output and forecasts oversupply may persist.
Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih sounded an upbeat note even after the price drop, saying on Wednesday he was sure cooperation between OPEC and its non-OPEC allies will continue to stabilize the market.
“I am confident that our high degree of cooperation and coordination will continue and bring the desired results,” Falih told an industry conference attended by Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo.
“Market volatility is unfortunate but ultimately it is the fundamentals that I watch.”
Barkindo said oil demand would grow this year at healthy levels and data pointed to continued high compliance by producers in January with their pledges under the supply-cut deal.
OPEC has delivered more than 100 percent of the output cuts that members pledged under the deal, according to figures from OPEC and other analysts, helped in part by an involuntary drop in Venezuela, where output is falling amid an economic crisis.
The Saudi energy ministry also said production by state oil company Aramco in March will be 100,000 bpd below February’s level, suggesting Saudi Arabia will continue to pump less than its OPEC target.
Novak met with Saudi King Salman at his palace in Riyadh on Wednesday and the two discussed producers’ efforts to rebalance the market and decrease surplus inventories, SPA reported.
Novak had said on Tuesday oil inventories had been declining despite the rise in US production.  


Habtoor joins Israeli tech firm on ‘robo-taxi’ plan 

Updated 26 min 41 sec ago

Habtoor joins Israeli tech firm on ‘robo-taxi’ plan 

  • Mobileye technology will be fitted into cars from the Habtoor dealership, which has the Dubai franchise for Mitsubishi
  • Founder of Mobileye Amnon Shashua: Dubai is classic territory to launch technologies for smart cities and a natural for deploying autonomous cars

DUBAI: In the latest sign of increased UAE-Israeli business co-operation, Al Habtoor Group, the Dubai-based hotels and motor conglomerate, has teamed up with a Jerusalem-based company on plans to put “robo-taxis” on the roads of the emirate.

Khalaf Al Habtoor, founding chairman of the group, signed a deal with Mobileye, the Israeli high-tech firm owned by Intel, that will provide the technology for the next generation of self-drive and autonomous vehicles in the UAE.

Mobileye technology will be fitted into cars from the Habtoor dealership, which has the Dubai franchise for Mitsubishi, one of the leading volume car marques in the region, as well as several luxury brands.

Amnon Shashua, the billionaire Israeli founder of Mobileye who sold the company to Intel for $15 billion in 2017, said that by early 2023 there would be a “fleet of autonomous, self-driving robo-taxi vehicles” on the streets of Dubai.

“Dubai is one of the most advanced cities in the world. It is classic territory to launch technologies for smart cities and a natural for deploying autonomous cars,” he added.

Mobileye’s tech provides data for map reading, navigation, traffic and driving conditions in a kit that can be fitted to Habtoor’s fleet, which serves government and public sector transport in Dubai, or can be bought by individual motorists as an add-on package

Al Habtoor said: “This deal will benefit both countries, the UAE and Israel, as well as neighboring countries and Europe.”

Shashua said that while Dubai was a center for growth in the Middle East, he would look to expand into other emirates and countries in the region.

Asked whether Mobileye would like to do business in Saudi Arabia, he said: “We look at things not through a political lens, but from the point of view of areas or territories where we can expand. The only reason we could not expand to Dubai before was the absence of a relationship between Israel and the UAE.

“It is true that Mobileye is owned by Intel, an American company, but still it is very difficult to start sending Israeli engineers in disguise. From a logistic perspective, it is not convenient. I believe there are many more opportunities in the Middle East and, once the ties are made formally, we could expand even further,” he added.

The first phase of the partnership will see 1,000 petrol-engine cars from the Habtoor fleet fitted with Mobileye technology, leading up to trials with a human “safety driver” in early 2022, before a fleet of “smart cars” is launched later that year or early 2023.

The business relationship between Habtoor and Mobileye began before the recent normalization of relations between the UAE and Israel. The Dubai-based company has been among the most enthusiastic advocates of closer business links with Israel, recently signaling it will open a representative office in the Israeli capital.