Saudi Arabia wants to enrich uranium for nuclear power, says minister

Wednesday, 11 Sep, 2019

Saudi Arabia, which has long planned an worldwide IPO of Aramco, now plans a gradual listing of the world's top oil producing company on its home market, sources familiar with the matter said on Monday.

New Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman on Monday also expressed support for efforts to distance the government from Aramco in his first public debut since being named to the post a day earlier. Many have also shied away after the gruesome killing of Saudi critic and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom's consulate in Turkey past year by Saudi agents. "But MbS has returned to the fore in the past few months".

The crown prince has valued Aramco at $2 trillion, but analysts estimate it could be worth closer to $1.5 trillion.

Executives at the annual Asia Pacific Petroleum Conference said on Monday they expect oil prices this year to be pressured by uncertainties surrounding the global economy, the U.S.

Nasser said that with the appointment of Prince Abdulaziz as energy minister, Aramco would have an "arms-length" relationship with the ministry, which he said would continue to dictate Aramco's maximum sustained capacity and production.

Rising costs of crude typically result in higher prices at the pump, with the effect usually felt by consumers six weeks after the initial oil hike.

It signaled a possible rift with the crown prince over his management of various issues, including reportedly moving too slowly in advancing Prince Mohammed's plan to sell shares in the state-owned oil company Aramco.

Prince Abdulaziz also alluded to the sense that Saudi Arabia is shouldering the burden of production cuts, while other nations - notably Nigeria and Iraq - are flouting the limitations.

Diversification efforts are seen as the kingdom's top priority as oil trades around $60 a barrel, below the $80-$85 range needed to cover government spending. The government has also been grappling with a widening budget deficit, which the International Monetary Fund projects will rise to 6.5 per cent of GDP this year.

Offering a glimpse into how he's approaching the job of energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz described himself as a "kitchen or basement man".

Bin Salman's remarks, which marked his debut since being named to one of the most important positions in the kingdom the previous day, have spooked nonproliferation experts, who warn such technology could allow Saudi Arabia to pursue a nuclear weapon amid heightened tensions between Iran and the USA over Tehran's program. That said, Prince Abdulaziz is expected to face mounting pressure from Saudi royals in order to boost oil prices to help reduce current budget constraints and to also lift the value from the partial privatisation of Saudi Aramco, which plans to list 1% of Aramco this year.