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Saudi Arabia’s Khalid bin Salman meeting top US officials

Brother to Saudi Crown Prince MBS is in Washington, just months after damning US intelligence report on Jamal Khashoggi’s killing.

Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defence Minister Khalid bin Salman is meeting with top Biden administration officials in the United States, just months after a US intelligence report linked his brother, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khalid bin Salman is expected to meet with Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan, as well as with US State and Defense Department officials, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Tuesday.

“They’ll discuss the longstanding partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia, regional security and the US commitment to help Saudi Arabia defend its territory,” Psaki told reporters, adding that the murder of Khashoggi would also likely come up.

The high-level Saudi visit – which had not been announced in advance – comes after rights groups and US legislators had urged US President Joe Biden to sanction MBS for his role in the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, and rethink the US-Saudi relationship.

Khashoggi was killed in October 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone to retrieve documents for his upcoming marriage.

The unclassified US intelligence report released in February found that MBS, the Gulf nation’s de facto ruler, had approved the operation that led to Khashoggi’s murder by a Saudi hit squad inside the consulate. The Saudi government previously had denied MBS had any role in the killing.

The country’s foreign affairs ministry denounced the conclusions, saying the report contained a “negative, false and unacceptable assessment … pertaining to the Kingdom’s leadership” as well as “inaccurate information and conclusions”.

But the findings shook relations between Riyadh and Washington, and heaped pressure on US President Joe Biden, who was elected last year on a promise to put human rights at the centre of US foreign policy.

The US president has said he planned to “recalibrate” US-Saudi relations – and would communicate directly with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, not with his son, the crown prince.

Khalid bin Salman was Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Washington at the time of Khashoggi’s murder.

When Khashoggi vanished after going to the Saudi consulate in Turkey, Khalid bin Salman insisted for days that accusations of official Saudi involvement in the journalist’s disappearance were groundless.

The Washington Post also reported that Khalid bin Salman had told Khashoggi to go to the consulate in Turkey to pick up the needed wedding papers, and told him it would be safe to do so.

Citing a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity, the Associated Press said Khalid bin Salman met briefly at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Saudi deputy defence minister also had longer talks at the Pentagon with Colin Kahl, under-secretary of defence for policy, the official said.

Bin Salman will be at the State Department on Wednesday, spokesman Ned Price said.

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Saudi Arabia changes import rules from Gulf in challenge to UAE

Saudi Arabia changes import rules from GulfSaudi Arabia has announced the latest rule changes despite the fact that UAE is its second-biggest trade partner after China in terms of import value, based on recent Saudi trade data.

Saudi Arabia has amended its rules on imports from other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to exclude goods made in free zones or using Israeli input from preferential tariff concessions – in a challenge to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the region’s trade and business hub.

Despite being close allies, Saudi Arabia and the neighbouring UAE are competing to attract investors and businesses. Their national interests have also increasingly diverged, such as in their relations with Israel and Turkey.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia – the biggest importer in the region – is trying to diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on oil, while providing more jobs for its own citizens, a point also covered by the rule changes announced over the weekend.

Saudi Arabia will henceforth exclude from the GCC tariff agreement goods made by companies with a workforce made up of less than 25 percent of local people and industrial products with less than 40 percent of added value after their transformation process.

The ministerial decree published on the Saudi official gazette Umm al-Qura said all goods made in free zones in the region will not be considered locally made.

Free zones, a major driver of the UAE’s economy, are areas in which foreign companies can operate under light regulation, and where foreign investors are allowed to take 100 percent ownership in companies.

According to the decree, goods that contain a component made or produced in Israel or manufactured by companies owned fully or partially by Israeli investors or by companies listed in the Arab boycott agreement regarding Israel, will be disqualified.

The UAE and Israel signed a tax treaty last May as both sides work to spur on business development after normalising relations last year. Bahrain, another GCC member, has also normalised ties with Israel.

“The idea once was to create a GCC market, but now there’s the realisation that the priorities of Saudi Arabia and the UAE are very different,” said Amir Khan, senior economist at Saudi National Bank.

“This regulation is putting flesh on the bone of these political divergences,” he said.

In February, the Saudi government said it will stop giving state contracts to businesses that base their Middle East hubs in any other country in the region. That was another blow to Dubai, one of the UAE’s emirates, which has built its economy on its open-for-business credentials and the promise of a glitzy lifestyle for well-heeled expatriates.

Saudi Arabia has announced the latest rule changes despite the fact that the UAE is its second-biggest trade partner after China in terms of import value, based on recent Saudi trade data.

It is also a major re-exporting hub for foreign products to Saudi Arabia, including Turkish goods – which have been under an unofficial boycott by Riyadh.

The ministerial decree said companies with a local workforce of between 10 percent and 25 percent of the total could compensate for the difference by increasing the industrial added value in their products and vice versa. The added value should not be less than 15 percent, in any case, to benefit from the preferential tariff agreement, it added.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have also faced off in the last few days about an OPEC Plus deal. The UAE opposed an agreement voted on Friday to raise output by some two million barrels per day from August to December 2021 and to extend remaining cuts to the end of 2022.

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Saudi Arabia stocks lower at close of trade; Tadawul All Share down 0.01%

Saudi Arabia stocks lower at close of trade; Tadawul All Share down 0.01%© Reuters. Saudi Arabia stocks lower at close of trade; Tadawul All Share down 0.01%

Investing.com – Saudi Arabia stocks were lower after the close on Sunday, as losses in the , and sectors led shares lower.

At the close in Saudi Arabia, the declined 0.01%.

The best performers of the session on the were AlJazira Mawten REIT (SE:), which rose 10.00% or 2.90 points to trade at 31.90 at the close. Meanwhile, Sedco Capital REIT (SE:) added 5.00% or 0.50 points to end at 10.50 and Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SE:) was up 4.74% or 4.30 points to 95.00 in late trade.

The worst performers of the session were Saudi Company for Hardware (SE:), which fell 3.78% or 2.70 points to trade at 68.70 at the close. Mobile Telecommunications Company (SE:) declined 2.42% or 0.36 points to end at 14.54 and CHUBB Arabia Cooperative Insurance (SE:) was down 2.16% or 0.95 points to 43.00.

Rising stocks outnumbered declining ones on the Saudi Arabia Stock Exchange by 105 to 84 and 14 ended unchanged.

Shares in AlJazira Mawten REIT (SE:) rose to all time highs; gaining 10.00% or 2.90 to 31.90. Shares in Sedco Capital REIT (SE:) rose to all time highs; rising 5.00% or 0.50 to 10.50.

Crude oil for June delivery was up 0.20% or 0.13 to $ 64.84 a barrel. Elsewhere in commodities trading, Brent oil for delivery in July rose 0.21% or 0.14 to hit $ 68.23 a barrel, while the June Gold Futures contract rose 0.89% or 16.25 to trade at $ 1831.95 a troy ounce.

EUR/SAR was up 0.83% to 4.5616, while USD/SAR rose 0.01% to 3.7504.

The US Dollar Index Futures was down 0.81% at 90.203.

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Author: Investing.com
This post originally appeared on Stock Market News

India ramps up oil imports from Saudi Arabia after price cut

India’s state-owned refiners are ordering their regular volumes of Saudi crude oil for June after the Kingdom reduced its prices, Reuters has reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the situation.

Saudi Arabia cut its official selling price for Asian clients earlier this month by between $ 0.10 and $ 0.30 in response to the surge in Covid-19 infections in India, which had a negative impact on its oil demand. Bloomberg noted this was the first price reduction of Saudi crude since December last year, reflecting weakening demand in the key Asian markets.
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OPEC’s largest producer announced oil price hikes for Asian buyers days after OPEC+ agreed to start adding barrels to their daily output, reducing a production curb that has had India repeatedly protesting against what it calls an artificial way of keeping oil prices high. The following month, Asian refiners and traders had to pay $ 1.80 above the Oman/Dubai benchmark average for shipments of Saudi crude.

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India’s oil demand recovery threatened by new restrictions

In response, India ordered its state-owned refiners to reduce their orders for Saudi crude in May and look for alternatives in continuation of efforts to reduce its overwhelming dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

“We have asked companies to aggressively look for diversification. We cannot be held hostage to the arbitrary decision of Middle East producers. When they wanted to stabilize the market we stood by them,” an Indian government source told Reuters in early March.

Now, Saudi Arabia has cut the price of its flagship Arab Light grade to $ 1.70 above the Oman/Dubai benchmark average. At the same time, Riyadh raised prices for US buyers by $ 0.20 per barrel to reflect the US economic rebound, which has pushed up demand for crude.

“This time there is no direction from the ministry to cut imports in June and unlike last time they (Aramco) have reduced the prices as well,” one of Reuters’ sources told the news agency.

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

Author: RT
This post originally appeared on RT Business News

Saudi Arabia may sell 1% of Aramco to a ‘leading global energy company’ – crown prince

Author: RT
This post originally appeared on RT Business News

Saudi authorities are currently negotiating a sale of 1% of state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco to an unnamed energy major, according to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“I don’t want to give any promises, but there’s a discussion for the acquisition of a 1% stake by a leading global energy company,” bin Salman said in an interview on Saudi television.

He added that the world’s biggest oil company could sell shares to international investors within the next year or two. The prince did not name the company but said it is from a “huge” country.

Also on rt.com Saudi Aramco profits nearly cut in HALF as pandemic woes cripple oil markets

According to bin Salman, some Aramco shares earmarked for sale to a foreign investor could be transferred to the Public Investment Fund, the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, while some may be listed on the Saudi stock market. Over 98% of Saudi Aramco’s shares are owned by the Saudi government.

Aramco went public in late 2019 after several years of delays, becoming the biggest IPO on record. The initial public listing of 1.5% of its shares on Saudi local bourse, the Tadawul, helped the oil giant to raise $ 25.6 billion. Later, the company issued more shares raising the historical IPO to a record-breaking $ 29.4 billion.

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The IPO came as part of a state campaign aimed at attracting foreign investments, and became one of the pillars for Saudi Vision 2030, a multibillion-dollar plan developed to diversify the kingdom’s economy away from oil.

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Saudi Aramco profits nearly cut in HALF as pandemic woes cripple oil markets

Saudi state-controlled oil giant Aramco said last year’s profits saw a dramatic drop to $ 49 billion as the Covid-19 pandemic turned 2020 into one of the hardest years for one of the world’s most valuable companies.

The sharp slump in the company’s full-year net income totaled 44% compared to the previous year, when profits amounted to $ 88.19 billion. In 2018, the oil firm reported profits of $ 111.1 billion.
The result was slightly below the projections of $ 48.1 billion, but is still the highest among the world’s public corporations. Despite the massive drop in net income, Saudi Aramco managed to maintain its $ 75 billion dividend payout.
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“In one of the most challenging years in recent history, Aramco demonstrated its unique value proposition through its considerable financial and operational agility,” Saudi Aramco Chief Executive Amin Nasser said in a statement on Sunday.

Saudi Aramco reportedly produced the equivalent of 9.2 million barrels per day of crude oil over 2020. Capital expenditure was down in 2020 to $ 27 billion, against $ 32.8 billion in the previous year.
Also on rt.com Saudi Aramco profits crash 73% as coronavirus sinks oil market
The company reportedly expects capital expenditure in the year ahead to be cut, and it lowered its guidance for spending to $ 35 billion from the previously planned $ 45 billion.

“Looking ahead, our long-term strategy to optimize our oil and gas portfolio is on track and, as the macro environment improves, we are seeing a pick-up in demand in Asia and also positive signs elsewhere,” the top official said.
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The coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc across the global economy, sparked an unprecedented collapse in crude prices, inevitably dragging down production volumes and refining margins.

Earlier, Exxon Mobil, the largest US oil and gas corporation, posted its first annual loss, while shares in European energy majors like Royal Dutch Shell and BP plummeted to multi-year lows last year.

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Saudi Arabia boosted crude oil exports in January

The world’s largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, increased its crude oil exports to 6.582 million barrels per day (bpd) in January 2021, up from 6.495 million bpd in December 2020.

Total Saudi oil exports, including crude oil and total oil products, rose slightly again month-on-month by 44,000 bpd to 7.75 million bpd in January 2021, according to the Joint Organisations Data Initiative (JODI) , which compiles self-reported data from the countries.
Also on rt.com India to cut Saudi oil imports amid escalating standoff over output & diversification drive
Saudi Arabia has been raising its crude oil exports every month since June last year when the Kingdom saw its crude oil exports drop to their lowest on record at just below 5 million bpd, as OPEC’s de facto leader led efforts from the OPEC+ group to withhold a record amount of crude from the market in response to the crash in demand.

This year, Saudi Arabia’s crude oil exports are set to dip after January, as the world’s top oil exporter has been cutting its production by an extra 1 million bpd since February on top of its OPEC+ quota, while the only members of the alliance allowed to raise output since February are non-OPEC producers Russia and Kazakhstan.
Also on rt.com Attack on world’s largest crude terminal in Saudi Arabia sends oil surging to 13-month high
In January 2021, the Saudis surprised the market with the decision for a unilateral cut of 1 million bpd, while the OPEC+ group was only slightly easing the cuts due to the concessions to Russia and Kazakhstan.

At the latest OPEC+ meeting in early March, Saudi Arabia surprised the market yet again, saying it would keep the extra cut into April, instead of only in February and March as originally planned. OPEC+ decided not to ease the cuts in April—except for a combined 150,000 bpd increase for Russia and Kazakhstan—as the group is looking to tighten the market and keep its powder dry until it sees tangible proof of rebound in global oil demand.

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

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‘Woke’ brigade slams Saudi Arabia’s ‘abysmal’ human rights record as images of awe-inspiring Jeddah Formula 1 circuit are revealed

Formula One has showcased images from the newly-built Jeddah street circuit which will host the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – but human rights campaigners have slammed the decision to hold the race in the region.

Last November, it was revealed that Saudi Arabia would pay £50 million per annum as part of a 10-year deal to host F1 races in a move that was immediately met with opposition from campaign group Amnesty International, who called on some of the sport’s biggest stars, including reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, to speak out against perceived human rights breaches. 

The debate has once again roared into the media after countless fans hit out at the partnership between Formula One and Saudi Arabia.

Their ire centered on the newly-revealed images and videos of the speedy new circuit on which drivers are expected to have an average speed of more than 155 miles-per-hour.

The circuit, which features an incredible 27 high-speed corners on each 3.8 mile lap, is set to host the penultimate race of the 2021 campaign. 

Located around 10 miles outside of the city center in Corniche, the circuit has three DRS (drag reduction system) zones which will allow for more overtaking options in the ultra-fast race – all with the Red Sea as its backdrop.

The design brings out the best of a modern street circuit but also has fast-paced, free-flowing areas that will create fast speeds and overtaking opportunities,” said Formula One managing director Ross Brawn. 

The setting is incredible, on the Red Sea, and we can’t wait to see the cars on the track in December.”

Not everyone shares Brawn’s enthusiasm.

There are more rights on that track than women have in that country,” one F1 fan chimed in online. 

Another wrote that “you can almost taste the oppression” from the clip, while a critic questioned why Formula One is “running in countries where slavery is still practised and women are second-class citizens.”

Saudi Arabia has been a frequent target for detractor over what they describe as “sports-washing” – the use of sports as a means to rehabilitate the reputation of a country engaged in human rights abuses.

The country hosted the December 2019 world heavyweight title boxing rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz, and is thought to be a potential candidate for the mooted unification fight between Joshua and Tyson Fury.

It has also hosted sporting events such as the Spanish Super Cup Final, the Saudi International European Tour golf event and the WWE’s ‘Crown Jewel’ pay-per-view event, among many others.

Amnesty International were among those to furiously hit out at the decision to allow Saudi Arabia to host a Grand Prix, calling the country’s human rights record “abysmal“.
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A Saudi Grand Prix in 2021 is just part of extensive ongoing efforts by the Saudi authorities to sports-wash their abysmal human rights record,” Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s head of campaigns, said last year.

With critics of the government either jailed, exiled or hounded into silence, the Saudi authorities have pursued a twin-track approach of crushing human rights while throwing large amounts of money at glittering sporting events.

It isn’t just motor racing – it’s golf, boxing, tennis, horse racing and, of course, the attempt to buy Newcastle United Football Club.”
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India to cut Saudi oil imports amid escalating standoff over output & diversification drive

Indian state refiners are planning to cut oil imports from Saudi Arabia by about a quarter in May, Reuters has reported, citing its sources. This comes after calls from India to increase crude production were ignored by OPEC.

The sources said, on condition of anonymity, that Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, as well as Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals, are preparing to lift about 10.8 million barrels in May.

According to people familiar with the discussions, the move is part of the Indian government’s drive to cut dependence on crude from the Middle East. They said that state refiners, which control about 60% of India’s five million barrels per day (bpd) refining capacity, together import an average 14.7-14.8 million barrels of Saudi oil per month.

The refiners could not cut April oil imports from Saudi Arabia as nominations were placed before the OPEC+ decision in early March to extend most cuts, the sources added. They also said that plans for May were preliminary and final May nominations would be known in early April.
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India is the world’s third-biggest oil importer and consumer, importing more than 80% of its oil needs and relying heavily on the Middle East.

The country’s oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan has repeatedly called on OPEC+ to ease supply curbs as India’s economy was being hit hard by growing oil prices. The minister has blamed Saudi’s voluntary cuts for contributing to a spike in global oil prices. However, the Saudi energy minister suggested India dip into strategic reserves filled with cheaper oil bought last year.

Pradhan responded by asking refiners to speed up their diversification of crude sources and reduce reliance on the Middle East.

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Attack on world’s largest crude terminal in Saudi Arabia sends oil surging to 13-month high

Global prices for crude oil extended gains to a more than one-year high on Monday, after an alarm message from Saudi Arabia that the world’s largest crude terminal at Ras Tanura had been attacked. Output remained unaffected.

International benchmark Brent was up 2.9 percent to $ 71 a barrel – the highest since January 2020 –   while West Texas Intermediate climbed to $ 67,59 per barrel, marking a growth of 2.53 percent.

A crude-oil storage tank at Ras Tanura, on the Gulf kingdom’s coast, was reportedly targeted by a drone from the sea on Sunday, despite the terminal being one of the most protected facilities in the world. Its daily export capacities of around 6.5 million barrels a day account for about seven percent of global oil demand.
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The attack comes as part of a recent escalation of warring tensions in the Middle East, after Yemen’s Houthi rebels reportedly launched a series of attacks on Saudi Arabia. Sunday’s incursion was the most  serious against a Saudi oil facility since September 2019, when a key processing facility and two oil fields came under fire, causing a halt to production for several days.

Crude prices extended their rally last week, following the news that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allied oil producers, together known as OPEC+, agreed to prolong existing output curbs for April. At the same time, Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil producer, made a surprise announcement that it would maintain its voluntary supply cuts in April, withholding a million barrels a day from the market in addition to the cartel’s efforts.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

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