Saudi Says It Is Prepared to RAISE Oil Output Despite Weak Prices

Saudi Arabia is prepared to raise its oil output and claim a larger market share to meet the demands of any new customers, according to Monday's edition of the Saudi-owned al-Hayat newspaper, which spoke to oil minister Ali Al-Naimi.

Only yesterday, we reported the Saudi oil minister's comments that the Royal Kingdom would not cut output even if non-OPEC countries chose to do so.

He also said Monday in an interview with the Middle East Economic Survey (MEES) regarding the falling price: "Whether it goes down to $20, $40, $50, $60, it is irrelevant." At present, "We [Saudi] have a lot of scope to continue, and our production costs are low- $4/B or $5/B at most...I say that the Gulf countries, and particularly the kingdom [Saudi Arabia], have the ability to hold out."

MEES asked al-Naimi directly whether Saudi's policy is moored in a defense of market share. He responded, "It is also a defense of high efficiency producing countries, not only of market share. We want to tell the world that high efficiency producing countries are the ones that deserve market share. That is the operative principle in all capitalist countries."

When asked if Saudi Arabia desired to maintain a market share at 9.7 M/bd, al-Naimi told the al-Hayat paper, "Yes, unless a new client comes along and then we may increase it," Reuters reported early Monday.

Saudi Arabia was the force behind OPEC's decision on November 27 to maintain its output quota of 30 M/bd at least through 1H15 amid the most significant oil price decline in recent years.

Al-Naimi's comments Monday were the boldest remarks yet from Saudi Arabia- indicating that the world's top oil exporter has no plans to reduce production in the face of falling oil prices. Instead, the Royal Kingdom is willing to leverage its low cost of production to secure market share from non-OPEC competitors, which it faults for the recent price collapse.

On Sunday, al-Naimi told reporters at a conference in the UAE, "If they [non-OPEC nations] want to cut production they are welcome: We are not going to cut, certainly Saudi Arabia is not going to cut."

In the Monday al-Hayat report, the oil minister also denied reports that he had debated oil policy with Alexander Novak, his Russian peer, during OPEC's November 27 annual meeting.

He said further that Igor Sechin, CEO of Russia's Rosneft, had delivered a 30-minute speech at a sideline gathering at the annual meeting, in which Sechin said, "We cannot cut anything because our wells are old and if we reduced their output they will not produce again."

Al-Naimi also dismissed speculation that the lower oil price could yield a Saudi budget deficit this year. He said the Royal Kingdom currently had no debt and was prepared to borrow if needed. "The banks are loaded and we can borrow from them while maintaining cash reserves," he told the paper.

When asked if Gulf Arab oil producers were in a position to deal with the lower oil price for two to three years if necessary, he said they could, Reuters reported.

UAE, Kuwait Echo Saudi
The tone of Ali al-Naimi's Sunday remarks were echoed by the oil ministers of the UAE and Kuwait at the conference as well.

The Kuwaiti Oil Minister Ali al-Omair said OPEC did not need to reduce production and would not convene for an emergency meeting prior to its scheduled meeting in June.

And UAE Oil Minister Suhail Bin Mohammed Al-Mazroui urged all producers not to raise their oil production in 2015, remarking that this would rapidly steady prices.

The fact that Saudi, the UAE and Kuwait are on the same page is not surprising. These three countries hold a total of more than $2 trillion in their sovereign wealth funds. In other words, most analysts agree that they can weather the price downturn...for now.

When reporters asked Al-Naimi about potential cooperation between OPEC members, which include the world’s lowest-cost producers, and non-member nations, the Saudi Minister said, “The best thing for everybody is to let the most efficient producers produce.”

Other Producers Can't Afford Lower Prices For Long
Saudi, Kuwait, and the UAE can in the short-term afford not to cut output. But fellow OPEC members such as Venezuela and Iran are not so well insulated from the effect of lower prices.

With the price of Venezuela's market basket of crude and petroleum products hovering around $60/barrel recently, many analysts estimate that the government needs a $120/barrel price to avoid scaling back or delaying spending commitments.

Iran needs oil prices well north of $100 per barrel to balance its budget, especially since Western sanctions have made it much harder to export crude. If oil prices keep falling, the Iranian government may need to make up revenues elsewhere.

In non-OPEC Russia, the ruble's free fall has thrown the country into a currency crisis. O&G revenue represents more than half of the Russian federal budget and two-thirds of its export revenue (approximately 300 billion annually). The IEA estimates that 68% of Russia's foreign currency earnings are sources from the oil-export business, and about half of its annual budget is underwritten by the industry.

By:  Fadi Aboualfa, Managing Director at MEES, has graciously agreed to send the full interview with al-Naimi to those interested.
You can email him at
Saudi Says It Is Prepared to RAISE Oil Output Despite Weak Prices Saudi Says It Is Prepared to RAISE Oil Output Despite Weak Prices Reviewed by luis on 12/22/2014 Rating: 5

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