Saudi Arabia Goes It Alone at OPEC+ With Million-Barrel Cut


(Bloomberg) — Saudi Arabia will make an extra 1 million barrel-a-day oil supply cut in July, taking its production to the lowest level for several years after a slide in crude prices.

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The bold move by the most important member of the OPEC+ coalition came at the cost of ceding ground to two key allies: Russia, which made no commitment to cut output deeper, and the United Arab Emirates, which secured a higher production quota for 2024. Oil prices advanced on Monday.

Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said he “will do whatever is necessary to bring stability to this market.” As oil prices are hammered by a softer economic outlook, especially in China, achieving this means shouldering the burden of cuts. The rest of the 23-nation group offered no additional action to buttress the current market, but did pledge to maintain their existing cuts until the end of 2024.

The kingdom is doubling down after the previous round of curbs — agreed just two months ago — failed to deliver a sustained price rally. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries announced a surprise supply reduction of about 1.6 million barrels a day in early April, but since then weak economic data from China have weighed on oil futures, which fell 11% in New York in May.

West Texas Intermediate jumped almost 5% early in the session on Monday before paring some gains to trade above $73 a barrel. Global benchmark Brent climbed toward $78 a barrel.

Next month’s additional cut could be extended, but the Saudis will keep the market “in suspense” about whether this will happen, Prince Abdulaziz said. The minister has repeatedly sought to hurt bearish oil speculators, warning them to “watch out” in the buildup to Sunday’s meeting.

“For the near term, crude prices will largely depend on a test of wills,” said Bob McNally, president of consultant Rapidan Energy Group and a former White House official. It will be a battle “between stability-seeking Saudi Arabia and bearish paper traders.”

The Saudi effort to bolster the price of its most important export requires the sacrifice of further market share. Global oil demand is forecast to hit a record high this year, but the additional cuts announced on Sunday will bring Saudi production to about 9 million barrels a day in July, the lowest since June 2021 when output was still recovering from the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The main winner from the weekend’s OPEC+ talks was the United Arab Emirates, which gets a boost to its production limit for next year at the expense of some African members, which were asked to give up part of their unused quotas. Energy Minister Suhail Al Mazrouei thanked his colleagues for the increase and expressed the country’s loyalty to the cartel.

“We will always support OPEC and will always stay together,” Al Mazrouei said. It was an important statement from a country that on at least one previous occasion threatened to leave the group if it didn’t get a higher quota.

Russia, the second largest OPEC+ producer, wasn’t required to make any additional cuts this year, but like other members it extended its existing curbs by 12 months to the end of 2024. Moscow has increasingly been competing with its Middle East OPEC allies in Asian markets since Europe banned most imports of its oil. There have also been questions about whether it has fully implemented its pledged production cuts in recent months due to the high volumes of its exports.

The announcement of the OPEC+ deal was delayed by several hours as ministers haggled over the details. The most contentious point was the revision to the baselines against which the production cuts of several nations are measured. African nations Angola and Nigeria, which have struggled to meet their output targets almost since they were introduced three years ago, were the strongest holdouts, delegates said.

Even though the countries can’t fully utilize their output quotas today, they were unwilling to give them up, delegates said. Several of them are seeking new investments to boost production in coming years and a restrictive OPEC+ output quota could undermine their attractiveness to foreign investors.

It was a bitter political pill for them to swallow and talks dragged on through late night sessions in Vienna hotels on Saturday and continued in the OPEC headquarters on Sunday. In the end, the impasse was resolved and the African countries agreed to lower output limits, subject to an independent review of their production capacities.

The other controversy of the meeting was that three news organizations, Bloomberg, Reuters and the Wall Street Journal, were barred from entering the OPEC headquarters in Vienna. Asked about the exclusion of journalists, Prince Abdulaziz referred the question to OPEC Secretary General Haitham Al Ghais. He offered no explanation for the decision.

(Updates with oil prices in fifth paragraph.)

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