Is Saudi Arabia Restarting The Oil War?

By Tsvetana Paraskova

Saudi Arabia’s oil giant Aramco has just announced the pricing for its oil for May, with deeper discounts for customers in Asia for the second month in a row, despite Sunday’s historic global production cut deal.

Aramco has delayed the announcement of its official selling prices (OSPs) for May several times in the past few days while producers were trying to unlock the ‘Mexican standoff’ in the talks on a 10-million-bpd production cut deal.

After the deal was sealed on Sunday, Saudi Arabia’s state oil giant said on Monday that it would be cutting the price of its flagship Arab Light crude grade to Asia by another US$4.20 per barrel compared to April, to a discount of US$7.30 a barrel to the Oman/Dubai benchmark average, documents seen by Reuters showed.

Saudi Arabia’s prices to Europe remain basically flat compared to the April pricing, while prices for the United States were raised. Arab Light will be sold to the United States at US$3 a barrel higher than in April—at a discount of US$0.75 per barrel versus the ASCI benchmark.

Last month, the Saudis slashed all their prices for all regions for April, after OPEC’s top producer and its partner in the OPEC+ pact, Russia, broke up the production cut deal and the Saudis waged a price war for market share by discounting their oil deeply to all markets.

The additional hefty discounts to Asia for May suggest that the Saudis are continuing to pay for market share there, but the rise in prices to the U.S. and flat month-on-month prices to Europe suggests that the Kingdom is trying to please U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, respectively, according to analysts.

The price hike for the Saudi crude selling in the United States is likely “designed to keep Trump happy,” Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank, told Bloomberg.

“Aramco is still prepared to fight for its market share. While the U.S. hike is symbolic, the real challenge, in terms of maintaining market share, can be seen through the lower OSP to Asia,” Hansen said.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com