Oil declines 1 percent on demand concerns as COVID surges: market wrap

Crude had risen for three days through Wednesday. (Reuters)
Crude had risen for three days through Wednesday. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 August 2021

Oil declines 1 percent on demand concerns as COVID surges: market wrap

Oil declines 1 percent on demand concerns as COVID surges: market wrap
  • Mexican state oil firm Pemex will produce an average of 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) by year end, despite a fire that has knocked out a big chunk of output

RIYADH: Oil prices fell on Thursday, ending a three-day rally, on concern that rising coronavirus cases will hurt global demand.

Brent crude futures dropped 1.0 percent to $71.51 a barrel at 6:03 p.m. Riyadh time. WTI, the US crude benchmark, was 1.1 percent lower at $67.58 a barrel.

Mexican state oil firm Pemex will produce an average of 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) by year end, despite a fire that has knocked out a big chunk of output, the country’s president said on Thursday.

Data on Thursday showed that in August the big improvers in demand are India and Japan, the region’s second- and third-biggest buyers. India’s oil imports have rebounded this month from a 12-month low of around 3.4 million bpd in July.

Elsewhere in energy, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said it made a profit for the first time in its 44-year history, generating an income of 287 billion naira ($698 million) after tax in 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari said on Thursday.

HIGHLIGHTS

Fresh COVID-19 outbreaks fueled by the delta variant of the coronavirus are raising concerns about the strength of the economic recovery globally.

On Friday, investors will watch Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell speak to the Jackson Hole economic conference.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) is asking federal politicians to provide new tax breaks on capital investment in energy projects, including for cleantech and emissions-reducing investments, as well as the reinstatement of a 15 percent tax credit for offshore drilling in Newfoundland and Labrador, as part of election wish list released on Tuesday.

The Cambodian government is seeking the return of an oil tanker and its crew who have been detained in Indonesia since July 27, alleging that the ship had loaded oil illegally from an offshore oil field, a government official said on Thursday.

Australian oil and gas producer Santos is to be challenged in court on its claim to have a “clear and credible” path to net zero emissions.

On Friday, investors will watch Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell speak to the Jackson Hole economic conference, but few expect hints about when the US central bank may start reducing asset purchases.

Next week, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will meet on Sept. 1 to decide its policy amid calls from the US to add more barrels to the market to help the global economic recovery.


Dubai’s Amanat sells stake in Jeddah IMC hospital for $118m

Dubai’s Amanat sells stake in Jeddah IMC hospital for $118m
Amanat
Updated 16 sec ago

Dubai’s Amanat sells stake in Jeddah IMC hospital for $118m

Dubai’s Amanat sells stake in Jeddah IMC hospital for $118m
  • The divestment resulted in a cash return of 100 million dirhams
  • The move is part of the Dubai firm’s strategy to exit minority investments, and pursue more specialized opportunities in health and education

DUBAI: Dubai-based investment firm Amanat Holdings has completed the sale of its minority 13.13 percent share in Jeddah hospital International Medical Center (IMC) for SR443 million ($118 million).

The transaction was done through the Saudi Healthcare and Education fund, which is indirectly owned by Amanat through its subsidiaries.

The divestment resulted in a cash return of 100 million dirhams, and is expected to report a gain of 40 million dirhams, Amanat said in a statement.

“IMC has a unique market position in Saudi Arabia and is a reputable provider of quality healthcare. We invested through the Fund in IMC nearly five years ago, with a different vision to obtain exposure across recognized assets through minority stakes,” Hamad Alshamsi, Amanat chairman, said.

The move is part of the Dubai firm’s strategy to exit minority investments, and pursue more specialized opportunities in health and education.

IMC is a 300-bed multi-disciplinary tertiary care hospital that serves the Kingdom’s western region.


Saudi mining portal received 4,073 license applications since launch

Saudi mining portal received 4,073 license applications since launch
Updated 25 September 2021

Saudi mining portal received 4,073 license applications since launch

Saudi mining portal received 4,073 license applications since launch
  • The Kingdom plans to launch a comprehensive geological survey to map the country’s mining potential

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources has received 4,073 applications through its online portal since it was launched earlier this year, it said in a statement on Saturday.

The ministry has issued 1,092 licenses to investors seeking opportunities in the Kingdom’s mining sector, and is processing a further 1,446, it said.

The sector is witnessing a rapid transformation and attracting investors from around the globe since the launch of a new mining law earlier this year.

According to geological surveys dating back 80 years, the Kingdom has an estimated reserve of untapped mining potential valued at $1.3 trillion.

Saudi Arabia’s mining industry has already attracted some major foreign investors. American industrial corporation Alcoa has a 25.1 percent stake in two companies, Ma’aden Bauxite and Alumina and Ma’aden Aluminum, as part of $10.8 billion joint venture with the Saudi Arabian Mining Co., Ma’aden, located in Ras Al-Khair Industrial City in the Eastern Province.

The Kingdom plans to launch a comprehensive geological survey to map the country’s mining potential.

The five-year program will conduct geophysical and geochemical surveys and create detailed mapping of more than 700,000 sq. km of the mineral-rich Arabian Shield area in Saudi Arabia.

The Vision 2030 reform plan identified the mining sector as a potential third pillar of the Kingdom’s industrial growth, alongside petroleum and petrochemicals. The country is investing SR14 billion to develop the sector.

About $45 billion in private and public sector investments have gone into the mining sector over the past decade, mainly in phosphate and aluminum production.

The Kingdom also plans to auction two major mining licenses in 2022 for commodities including gold, copper and zinc, as the Kingdom aims to triple the mining sector’s contribution to the national gross domestic product to SR240 billion ($64 billion) and double the number of jobs to 470,000 by 2030.


Egypt extends natural gas exploration auctions to end of September

Egypt extends natural gas exploration auctions to end of September
Updated 25 September 2021

Egypt extends natural gas exploration auctions to end of September

Egypt extends natural gas exploration auctions to end of September
  • Nine new exploration licence awards announced

CAIRO: Nine international natural gas exploration auctions that were announced in March have been extended until the end of September, said the Magdy Galal, chairman of the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company.

Galal also announced that nine new natural gas exploration agreements have been signed with international companies, bringing the total number to 44. The new exploration licenses will lead to investment of nearly $1 billion with signature grants amounting to $24 million, he said during the company’s general assembly headed by the Minister of Petroleum.

Last year witnessed eight new discoveries of natural gas, two discoveries in the Mediterranean and six in the Western Desert, adding an estimated 600 billion cubic feet of new reserves.

Four projects were implemented for the development and production of gas from the discovered fields with investments of more than $4 billion, and 15 new wells were placed on the gas production map, with an average daily production of 1.4 billion cubic feet of gas and more than 25,000 barrels of condensate.

The total average production of natural gas amounted to more than 6.8 billion cubic feet, covering the entire needs of the local market. The average daily local consumption of natural gas amounted to more than 6 billion cubic feet.

The electricity sector consumed the most gas, accounting for more than 60 percent of production, followed by the industrial sector with more than 22 percent and the petrochemical and gas derivatives industry with about 11 percent. Domestic home and vehicle use took and 6 percent.

Exports of natural gas were made to Jordan through pipelines, and liquefied natural gas has been exported to global markets with a total of 71 shipments from the Idku and Damietta facilities.


China crypto crackdown reveals scale of digital yuan ambitions

China crypto crackdown reveals scale of digital yuan ambitions
Updated 25 September 2021

China crypto crackdown reveals scale of digital yuan ambitions

China crypto crackdown reveals scale of digital yuan ambitions
  • All crypto trading and mining deemed illegal in China
  • China's central bank digital currency could launch as soon as 2022

LONDON: If there’s one thing the Chinese Communist Party likes it is control.

A raft of edicts from President Xi Jinping this year have asserted the government’s control over ever larger swathes of the Chinese economy and the everyday life of Chinese people.

The financial cost of these measures is difficult to accurately gauge, but billions of dollars have been wiped off the value of tech companies, including Alibaba, Didi and Tencent, following a squeeze on their activities, including limits on how long children can spend playing online games.

There have been considerable financial costs too from China’s crypto crackdown, which intensified yesterday with a blanket ban on all crypto transactions and mining. Ten agencies, including the central bank, financial, securities and foreign exchange regulators, vowed to work together to root out “illegal” cryptocurrency activity, the first time the Beijing-based regulators have joined forces to explicitly ban all cryptocurrency-related activity.

That represents a major escalation from May this year, when China banned financial institutions and payment companies from providing services related to cryptocurrency transactions. It had issued similar bans in 2013 and 2017.

Despite an initial drop in the value of cryptocurrencies on Friday, they stabilized on Saturday and most analysts don’t see the measures having a long-term effect on the value of crypto assets.

“For the institutional crypto industry, it won’t change much as those who could leave already left and those who couldn’t have either closed or gone under the radar,” said George Zarya, CEO at digital asset prime brokerage and exchange BEQUANT. “The retail market most likely has gone under the radar and will continue to support market volumes.”

The biggest financial cost is to Chinese businesses involved in trading and mining cryptocurrencies.

Virtual currency mining had been big business in China before May, accounting for more than half the world’s crypto supply, but miners have been moving overseas.

“[China] will now lose around $6 billion worth of annual mining revenue, all of which will flow to the remaining global mining regions,” said Christopher Bendiksen, head of research at digital asset manager CoinShares, citing Kazakhstan, Russia and the United States as beneficiaries.

Crypto exchanges OKEx and Huobi, which originated in China but are now based overseas, are likely to be the worst affected since they still have some China users, analysts said. Tokens associated with the two exchanges plunged over 20 percent on Friday.

Despite all this disruption and loss of wealth, there is a major upside for China.

The Chinese government has repeatedly raised concerns that cryptocurrency speculation could disrupt the country’s economic and financial order, one of Beijing’s top priorities.

Most of all, cryptocurrencies are a threat to China’s sovereign digital yuan, which is at an advanced pilot stage. The People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, plans an official launch of the digital yuan as soon as 2022, following testing at the Winter Olympics.

Widespread use of the digital yuan would give Chinese policy makers greater visibility into how money flows around China’s economy.

This would help them track any illicit flows of funds, such as money laundering or terrorist financing, and it would also allow them to experiment by targeting monetary policy interventions on specific economic classes, regions or other groups.

However, by killing off independent cryptocurrencies, China closes off a huge area of financial innovation and risks reducing the dynamism of its economy in the future.


Europe needs long-term energy plan, Eni CEO says

Europe needs long-term energy plan, Eni CEO says
Updated 25 September 2021

Europe needs long-term energy plan, Eni CEO says

Europe needs long-term energy plan, Eni CEO says
  • Households across Europe face much higher energy bills due to surging wholesale power and gas prices

MILAN: Soaring gas prices as winter approaches are evidence that the EU needs to work out a long-term energy security plan, the head of Italy’s Eni has told La Repubblica newspaper.

Claudio Descalzi noted the EU imports almost all the natural gas and most of the oil it needs, making it structurally dependent on foreign supplies.

“Europe needs to have what it hasn’t got today, a structured and long-term energy security plan,” Descalzi said in an interview published on Saturday.

“I don’t think there will be problems with gas procurement, but it will cost more,” he said regarding this winter.

Eni has strategic long-term gas supply contracts with a series of gas-producing countries including Russia.

Households across Europe face much higher energy bills due to surging wholesale power and gas prices, and consumer groups have warned the most vulnerable could experience fuel poverty.

Spain has urged the European Commission to devise guidance to help member states react consistently to power price spikes without testing the rules of the bloc.

Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi this week also said Europe needed to act to diversify its energy supplies and strengthen the bargaining power of purchasing countries to help curb power and gas price rises.