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.”

Dubai counts on pent-up demand for tourism return

Updated 11 July 2020

Dubai counts on pent-up demand for tourism return

DUBAI: After a painful four-month tourism shutdown that ended this week, Dubai is betting pent-up demand will see the industry quickly bounce back, billing itself as a safe destination with the resources to ward off coronavirus.

The emirate, which had more than 16.7 million visitors last year, opened its doors to tourists despite global travel restrictions and the onset of the scorching Gulf summer in the hopes the sector will reboot before high season begins in the last quarter of 2020.

Embarking from Emirates flights, where cabin crew work in gowns and face shields, the first visitors arrived on Tuesday to be greeted by temperature checks and nasal swabs, in a city better known for skyscrapers, luxury resorts and over-the-top attractions.

Tourism chief Helal Al-Marri said that people may still be reluctant to travel right now, but that data shows they are already looking at destinations and preparing to come out of their shells.

“When you look at the indicators, and who is trying to buy travel, 10 weeks ago, six weeks ago and today look extremely different,” he said in an interview.

“People were worried (but) people today are really searching heavily for their next holiday and that is a very positive sign and I see a very strong comeback.”

The crisis crushed Dubai’s goal to push arrivals to 20 million this year and forced flag carrier Emirates, the largest airline in the Middle East, to cut its sprawling network and lay off an undisclosed number of staff.

But Al-Marri, director-general of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, said that unlike the gloom after the 2008 global financial crisis, the downturn is a one-off “shock event.”

“Once we do get to the other side, as we start to talk about next year and later on, we see very much a quick uptick. Because once things normalize, people will go back to travel again,” he said.

The reopening comes as the UAE battles stubbornly high coronavirus infection rates that have climbed to more than 53,500 with 328 deaths.

And as swathes of the world emerge from lockdown, for many travelers their holiday wish lists have shifted from free breakfasts and room upgrades to more pressing issues like hotel sanitation and hospital capacity.

With its advanced medical facilities and infrastructure, Dubai is betting it will be an attractive option for tourists.

“The first thing I’m thinking is — how is the health-care system, do they have it under control? Do I trust the government there?” Al-Marri said. “Yes they expect the airline to have precautionary measures, they expect it at the airport. But are they going to a city where everything from the taxi, to the restaurant, to the mall, to the beach has these measures in place?”

Tourists arriving in Dubai are required to present a negative test result taken within four days of the flight. If not, they can take the test on arrival, but must self-isolate until they receive the all-clear.

While social distancing and face masks are widely enforced, many restaurants and attractions have reopened with business as usual, even if wait staff wear protective gear and menus have been replaced with QR codes.

“When it comes to Dubai, I think it’s really great to see the fun returning to the city. As you’ve seen, everything’s opened up,” Al-Marri said.