Saudi Arabia slashes oil prices after collapse of OPEC+

There were big falls on Friday as OPEC failed to get a deal with non-OPEC members to extend output deals. (Saudi Aramco photo)
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Updated 09 March 2020

Saudi Arabia slashes oil prices after collapse of OPEC+

  • Latest move to deal a major blow to US shale companies

DUBAI: The eyes of the world will be on the oil markets when the big trading hubs in Europe and North America open following the end of the deal between Saudi Arabia and Russia that has helped to sustain crude at relatively high levels for the past three years.

There were big falls on Friday when ministers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) failed to get a deal with non-OPEC members — the so-called OPEC+ — to extend output agreements. Brent oil was down nearly 10 percent at $45.27 going into the western weekend.

Saudi Aramco took immediate action to cut prices after the OPEC+ collapse, offering big discounts for crude deliveries from next month, when the current output restrictions end.

According to a notification sent to customers by Saudi Aramco, seen by Arab News, the Kingdom’s oil giant will cut between $4 and $8 per barrel, with the biggest discounts being offered to buyers in northwest Europe and the US.

Roger Diwan, an oil analyst at consultancy IHS Market, said: “We are likely to see the lowest oil prices of the past 20 years in the next quarter.”

West Texas Intermediate, the US oil benchmark, fell to $28.27 in November 2001.

The move raises the possibility of a “crude war” between the three biggest oil blocs — the US, Russia and the Arabian Gulf. Some analysts believe the American shale industry is more vulnerable to low prices than either the Russians or the Saudis.

Robin Mills, head of the Qamar consultancy, told Arab News: “I don’t think this was premeditated but Saudi Arabia has clearly swung quickly into action to put the Russians under pressure. But the Russians, with low debt and a flexible exchange rate, can cope with a few months of low prices.”

The boom in US shale has made the country the biggest oil producer in the world, but with high financing costs. Lower global prices would put a lot of shale companies out of business.

On the other hand, American motorists, and President Donald Trump, would be pleased to see lower fuel prices in an election year. 

In Moscow, one prominent financier with ties to the Kingdom played down the long-term significance of the Vienna fallout.

Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, told Arab News: “Saudi Arabia is our strategic partner, and cooperation between our two countries will continue in all areas. We will also continue to work within the framework of the Russia-Saudi Economic Council.” 

One Russian official, who asked not to be named, added: “There is a good relationship between Alexander Novak, Russian energy minister, and his Saudi counterpart Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, and I am sure they will continue talking to each other less formally.”

G20 ministers agree to keep markets open, tackle pandemic supply disruptions

Updated 31 March 2020

G20 ministers agree to keep markets open, tackle pandemic supply disruptions

  • G20 leaders pledged last week to inject over $5 trillion into the global economy to limit job and income losses from the coronavirus outbreak
  • The coronavirus has infected nearly 738,500 people worldwide and killed some 35,000

RIYADH/WASHINGTON: Trade ministers from the Group of 20 major economies agreed on Monday to keep their markets open and ensure the continued flow of vital medical supplies, equipment and other essential goods as the world battles the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
G20 leaders pledged last week to inject over $5 trillion into the global economy to limit job and income losses from the coronavirus outbreak, while working to ease supply disruptions caused by border closures by national governments anxious to limit transmission of the virus.
In a joint statement issued after a videoconference, the trade ministers pledged to take “immediate necessary measures” to facilitate trade, incentivize additional production of equipment and drugs, and minimize supply chain disruptions.
They agreed that all emergency measures should be “targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary,” while sticking to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules and not creating “unnecessary barriers” to trade.
They also vowed to work to prevent profiteering and unjustified price increases, and keep supplies flowing on an affordable and equitable basis.
“As we fight the pandemic both individually and collectively and seek to mitigate its impacts on international trade and investment, we will continue to work together to deliver a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open,” the ministers said.
They agreed to notify the WTO about any trade-related measures taken to keep global supply chains running and said they would convene again as necessary.
The ministers, however, stopped short of explicitly calling for an end to export bans that many countries, including G20 members France, Germany and India, have enacted on drugs and medical supplies. A key adviser to US President Donald Trump is working on new rules to expand “Buy America” mandates to the medical equipment and pharmaceutical sectors, something that dozens of business groups said could worsen shortages.
The joint statement included the phrase “consistent with national requirements” already used by G20 leaders, which experts say could provide a loophole for protectionist barriers.
Lack of protective medical gear is putting doctors and nurses at risk. Many countries rely on China, the source of the outbreak, for drug ingredients and are struggling to avoid shortages after lockdown measures prompted by the epidemic held up supplies and delayed shipments.
Supply chains are backing up as air freight capacity plunges and companies struggle to find truck drivers and shipping crews. Europe and the United States are short of tens of thousands of freight containers. Shippers struggle with crew shortages and quarantines at ports. Agriculture is also being disrupted.
The ministerial video conference was attended by representatives from the WTO, World Health Organization and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
A senior World Bank official urged G20 members to agree to refrain from imposing new export restrictions on critical medical supplies, food or other key products, and to eliminate or reduce tariffs on imports of key products.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told the ministers during the meeting that the pandemic had revealed vulnerabilities in the US economy caused by over-dependence on cheap medical supplies from other countries. He did not reference the “Buy America” rule specifically, but said Washington was encouraging diversification and wanted to promote more domestic manufacturing to produce more suppliers for the United States and others.
G20 finance ministers and central bankers will also meet virtually, on Tuesday, for the second time in just over a week to continue coordinating their response, the Saudi G20 secretariat said, as worries grow about the debt crisis looming over poorer countries.
Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama told counterparts that both the public and private sectors should try to avoid shutting supply networks to enable an early resumption of economic activities.
The coronavirus has infected nearly 738,500 people worldwide and killed some 35,000, and has plunged the world into a global recession, according to International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva.