Oil-rich Saudis tilts toward more openness

Saudi Aramco extends offshore agreements even as Riyadh embraces diversification agenda.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Jan. 26, 2016 at 7:31 AM
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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- With the privatization of its state-owned oil company on the agenda, a Saudi competition director called for more government support for market newcomers.

The Saudi Arabian Oil Co., announced in early January it was reviewing the potential to list its shares on the public market for the first time in the company's history. Once a study on the possibility is completed, the state-run company said it would present results to the board of directors, which would then make its recommendation to the government.

Shankar Selgam, a competition director, said the government was becoming more competitive when weighed against other regional economies.

"Government agencies should provide support for market newcomers and not depend on giant renowned companies through offering them developmental or infrastructure projects of the country," a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency read.

A December report from consulting firm McKinsey & Co. finds the oil-rich kingdom may need to embrace an economic diversity scheme amid the sustained slump in crude oil prices. Crude oil prices are down 70 percent from mid-2014 and off about 10 percent since the start of 2016, even with a rally of 9 percent last week.

The Saudi Finance Ministry reported total oil revenues for last year were expected around $118 billion, a decline of 23 percent from 2014, when oil was priced at more than $100 per barrel. Riyadh said it was embracing a set of policies and structural reforms meant to reduce the economic dependency on oil. Part of the five-year reform policy includes the privatization of some sectors of the Saudi economy.

Nevertheless, the oil company, known also as Saudi Aramco, and the National Shipping Co. of Saudi Arabia signed a deal to extend a memorandum of understanding to service offshore oil installations in the country with Emirati rig services company Lamprell and South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries.

"Through the development of the maritime complex, Saudi Aramco and the participating parties look forward to leveraging their know-how, current and future business needs, to actively pursue such an investment and promote economic development and job creation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," the Saudi Press Agency reported.

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