Aramco and ADNOC seen gaining more power with Shell Dutch ruling

Aramco and ADNOC seen gaining more power with Shell Dutch ruling
A Saudi Aramco employee is seen at the Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) facility at Aramco's Shaybah oilfield in the Empty Quarter. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 01 June 2021

Aramco and ADNOC seen gaining more power with Shell Dutch ruling

Aramco and ADNOC seen gaining more power with Shell Dutch ruling
  • An oil price rally coupled with the declining strength of oil majors would mean a large wealth transfer from the West to countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia, until demand starts declining not only in the West but in Asia too

LONDON: Climate activists who scored big against Western majors last week had some unlikely cheerleaders in the oil capitals of Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Russia.
Defeats in the courtroom and boardroom mean Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron are all under pressure to cut carbon emissions faster. That’s good news for the likes of Saudi Arabia’s national oil company Saudi Aramco, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and Russia’s Gazprom and Rosneft.
It means more business for them and OPEC.
“Oil and gas demand is far from peaking and supplies will be needed, but international oil companies will not be allowed to invest in this environment, meaning national oil companies have to step in,” said Amrita Sen from Energy Aspects consultancy.
Climate activists scored a major victory with a Dutch court ruling requiring Royal Dutch Shell to drastically cut emissions, which in effect means cutting oil and gas output. The company will appeal.
The same day, the top two US oil companies, Exxon Mobil and Chevron  both lost battles with shareholders who accused them of dragging their feet on climate change.
“It looks like the West will have to rely more on what it calls “hostile regimes” for its supply,” joked a high-level executive from Russia’s Gazprom oil and gas group, referring to energy companies around the world owned completely or mostly by the state.
Saudi Aramco, ADNOC and Gazprom all declined to comment. Oil major Rosneft, in which the Russian state has the biggest stake, also declined to comment.
A senior Saudi Aramco staffer said the court ruling would make it easier for OPEC to ramp up production.
“It is great for Aramco,” the staffer said.
Western oil majors like Shell have dramatically expanded in the last 50 years, as the West sought to cut its reliance on energy from the volatile Middle East, and from Russia.
Those same Western energy majors, including BP and Total, have set out plans to sharply reduce emissions by 2050. But they face growing pressure from investors to do more to meet UN-backed targets to limit global warming.
Saudi Aramco, listed on the Saudi bourse but majority state owned, is not under the same sort of pressure to cut its carbon emissions, although the Kingdom’s rulers aim to sharply increase the country’s use of renewables.
Gazprom expects demand for natural gas to grow in the coming decades and for it to play a bigger role in energy consumption than renewable sources and hydrogen.
Western oil majors control around 15 percent of global output, while OPEC and Russia have a share of around 40 percent. That share has been relatively stable in the last decades as rising demand was met with new producers like smaller private US shale firms, which today face similar climate-related pressures.
Since 1990, global oil consumption has grown to 100 million barrels per day from 65 million bpd, with Asia providing the lion’s share of growth.
Countries such as China and India have made no pledges to reduce oil consumption, which on a per capita basis is still a fraction of the levels in the West. China will rely heavily on gas to cut its huge coal consumption.
The International Energy Agency, which looks after energy policies of the West, issued a stark appeal last month to the world to essentially scrap all new oil and gas developments. But it gave no clear formula on how to reduce demand.
Despite pressure from activists, investors and banks to cut emissions, Western oil majors are also tasked with maintaining high dividends amid heavy debt. Dividends from oil companies represent significant contributions to pension funds.
“It is vital that the global oil industry aligns its production to the Paris goals. But that must be done in step with policy, changes to the demand side, and the rebuilding of the world’s energy system,” said Nick Stansbury from Legal & General, which manage £1.3 trillion ($1.8 trillion) in assets on behalf of savers, retirees and institutions.
“Forcing one company to do so in the courts may (if it is effective at all) only result in higher prices and foregone profits,” he said. Legal & General, one of the world’s largest fund managers, holds assets in most oil majors.
Climate lawsuits have been filed in 52 countries in the past two decades, with 90 percent of those in the United States and European Union, risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft said.
“In the West, energy investments will peak on fears and concerns over regulations and court rulings. Then, we will see peak dividends,” said the Aramco executive. Aramco pays the highest annual dividend of $75 billion.
Over the past five years, the IEA has been predicting a large oil shortage and an oil price spike due to a lack of investments following a 2014-2017 oil price crash.
An oil price rally coupled with the declining strength of oil majors would mean a large wealth transfer from the West to countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia, until demand starts declining not only in the West but in Asia too.
“The same oil and gas will still be produced. Just with lower ESG standards,” said an executive from a Middle Eastern producer, who previously worked for an oil major, referring to environmental, social and governance performance measurements.


Jeddah music center promotes Kingdom’s nascent entertainment sector

Jeddah music center promotes Kingdom’s nascent entertainment sector
Updated 6 sec ago

Jeddah music center promotes Kingdom’s nascent entertainment sector

Jeddah music center promotes Kingdom’s nascent entertainment sector
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s music industry has seen rapid growth from a standing start, largely due to the Vision 2030 reform plan, which positions entertainment front and center in the diversification of the Kingdom’s economy away from oil and its derivatives.

The General Entertainment Authority was established in 2016 with a mission to “provide recreational opportunities for all segments of society...to enrich lives and to spread joy.” It is doing just that with spectacular mega-events like Riyadh Season.

And with the relaxation of social norms in the Kingdom, music has become not just an integral part of daily life, but a dynamic new economic sector.

Numerous KSA-based companies are getting in on the act, via a spectrum of platforms: TV, Internet, social media, streaming services such as Lebanon-based Anghami (focused on Middle East-origin music) and live performance.

Saudi promoters such as Benchmark and AK Events have brought major international stars to local audiences. Mariah Carey, the Black Eyed Peas and Enrique Iglesias have all performed in the Kingdom, prior to the COVID-19 epidemic putting a temporary halt on public gatherings.

Jeddah-based Makan Music Center, which offers a full range of musical services, is a focal point of the Kingdom’s burgeoning music scene.

The center’s General Manager Shaher Karkashan, 32, founded the center with his musician colleagues in 2018.

He told Arab News: “Our goal was to create a hub for musicians. And our vision is to enable an individual to go the full circle with us — from learning an instrument to recording original material and then presenting his or her music to a live audience.

“That’s the goal, for both boys and girls — and surprisingly, over 60 percent of our clients are female.”

Such activities are crucial for the incubation of Saudi musical performers in order to supply high quality content to an industry hungry for new talent.

The center was initially launched with just two rooms — a recording studio and a jamming and learning space.

Three years on, it occupies an entire 400-square meter building divided into an eight-room teaching area, a 250-capacity auditorium and a recording studio.

Clients can learn a variety of instruments, including guitar, violin and drums, along with vocals. The typical age of musicians is 15 to 40, although some are aged 50 and above.

The center also provides equipment, talent and management services for indoor and outdoor corporate events, staged in malls and other public spaces, attracting audiences of up to 2,000.

Karkashan said that as the center has grown, it has become a more professional outfit with a robust business model and several income streams: tuition, ticketed concerts, artist management, equipment hire and corporate events.

He said: “We started with five employees — and now we are 20 and growing. We have six departments, including human resources, accounting and sales, and we’re hiring more people.”

While the KSA’s music industry – specifically live performance — was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the future outlook appears positive. With the Kingdom’s health situation returning to normal, forthcoming live events include the appearance of Justin Bieber, A$AP Rocky and Jason Derulo, who are set to headline post-race concerts at this weekend’s inaugural Formula 1 Grand Prix in Jeddah. Industry players are hoping that this progress will not be impeded by the omicron COVID-19 variant.

Health conditions permitting, Karkashan and his associates are also planning a large new year concert as part of the port city’s Jeddah Season festivities.
Such activities were unheard of in the Kingdom even a few years ago, and Karkashan noted that the changes stemmed from the Vision 2030 reforms.

“Saudi Arabia had some major artists back in the 1980s, after which there was a huge 30-year gap,” he added.

“Then we started seeing a few Saudis performing on TV shows like ‘Star Academy’ and ‘Arab’s Got Talent’ — but they went on to work in Kuwait or the Emirates, because there was no opportunity for them to develop in Saudi Arabia.

“Now things have changed. The Ministry of Culture is involved, there’s the Entertainment Authority, even a Music Authority, and they are all helping to develop the KSA’s music industry.

“I think potentially big names will soon emerge in Saudi Arabia. They are under development now, and we will probably see them go mainstream in around 2023.”

Some of Makan’s clients have come together to form bands — one called Robin and another Bad Reception — and the center has also allowed more established acts, such as death metal outfit Wasted Land, to record and perform their own material.

Karkashan said that he is optimistic about the future of Makan as well as Saudi Arabia’s music sector as a whole.

He pointed out that he was focused on three main areas of growth: artist management, staging bigger outdoor events and opening new centers in Riyadh and other cities in the Kingdom.

“Five years ago, it was all very different. But now aspiring musicians have our full support as well as support from the media and the government.

“And social media really opens up huge possibilities. Many young people are passionate about learning music or starting a band or a career in music, and this is definitely the right time to do it.”

The Saudi music industry is slated to see exponential growth over the next decade and the Makan Music Center will surely play a part in that, both artistically and commercially.

Elon Musk’s Tesla share sales pass $10bn

Elon Musk’s Tesla share sales pass $10bn
Updated 34 min 4 sec ago

Elon Musk’s Tesla share sales pass $10bn

Elon Musk’s Tesla share sales pass $10bn
  • Musk sold a further $1.01 billion according to a regulatory filing on Thursday

RIYADH: Elon Musk offloaded $1.01 billion worth of Tesla shares, surpassing $10 billion in over the past month, as he seeks to sell 10 percent of his stake in the electric-car maker.

Musk got rid of about 934,000 shares in the latest transaction, according to regulatory filings dated Thursday.

The world’s richest person is aiming to offset taxes on the exercise of about 2.1 million options, Bloomberg reported.

Musk is the richest person in the world with a $284.1 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

His wealth has surged by $128.1 billion this year with Tesla shares having climbed 54 percent.


UAE financial literacy app raises $400,000 in pre-seed, prepares for $1.5m seed round

UAE financial literacy app raises $400,000 in pre-seed, prepares for $1.5m seed round
Updated 03 December 2021

UAE financial literacy app raises $400,000 in pre-seed, prepares for $1.5m seed round

UAE financial literacy app raises $400,000 in pre-seed, prepares for $1.5m seed round
  • Edfundo is set to launch in the UAE in 2022

RIYADH: UAE-based Edfundo, a children’s financial literacy app, looks to raise $1.5 million in seed funding to grow its team, bolster its growth in its home market, and expand across the MENA region.

This follows the closing of the initial friends and family funding round that was 12.5 percent over-subscribed and raised $400,000, Edfundo said on its website.

The co-founders of Edfundo, the world’s first teacher-curated smart money management app for tweens and teens, which is due for launch in the UAE in 2022, have opened the next $1.5 million funding round with a target to close it during the next year.

Founded by CEO Simon Wing and COO Andrew Toward, Edfundo allows children to manage their finances through its money management platform app.

The first-round funding means Edfundo can connect swiftly with youngsters and parents and engage in crucial conversations around smart money management, Toward said.


Saudi Competition Authority approves joint venture to sell, distribute Gucci products

Saudi Competition Authority approves joint venture to sell, distribute Gucci products
Updated 03 December 2021

Saudi Competition Authority approves joint venture to sell, distribute Gucci products

Saudi Competition Authority approves joint venture to sell, distribute Gucci products
  • G Distribution will own 75 percent of the shares in the company, while Al Rubaiyat Company will own 25 percent

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Competition gave the green light for a joint venture between G Distribution B.V and Al Rubaiyat Co. for Industry & Trade Holding to sell and distribute Gucci products in the Kingdom.

G Distribution Company will own 75 percent of the shares in the company, while Al Rubaiyat Company will own 25 percent, Argaam reported.

The Kingdom’s competition authority has approved 13 joint projects since the beginning of this year.


Saudi Arabia hosts first National Forum for Islamic Banking on Dec. 6

Saudi Arabia hosts first National Forum for Islamic Banking on Dec. 6
Updated 03 December 2021

Saudi Arabia hosts first National Forum for Islamic Banking on Dec. 6

Saudi Arabia hosts first National Forum for Islamic Banking on Dec. 6

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is hosting its first National Forum for Islamic Banking on Dec. 6 and 7 in Riyadh, titled "Kingdom's Leadership in Islamic Banking.”

Participants in the forum will discuss the impact of Islamic banking on economic development, the Kingdom’s regulations in Islamic banking, Islamic digital banking in Saudi Arabia and the role of Islamic banks in entrepreneurship, among other discussions.

This comes in light of the rapid growth of the Islamic financial industry since its inception at the global level.

Islamic banking assets in the Kingdom reached more than $565 billion by the first quarter of 2021, SPA reported.