Tag Archives: Aramco

Poly….what? Politics!

It is almost a week ago, yet the news is still rustling through the Middle Eastern meadows. The news is partially all over it. Yet, it is the Business Insider who gave us ‘a plot to shore up the country’s depleted coffers’ (at http://www.businessinsider.com/saudi-arabia-corruption-crackdown-looks-like-a-plot-to-plug-deficit-2017-12), Ambrose Carey makes an interesting point here. The beginning quote “Now a more probable motive for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s unprecedented detention of members of the country’s rich elite is emerging. Reports suggest that detainees are signing away cash and assets to secure their freedom in what looks like an unorthodox bid to plug the kingdom’s gaping budget deficit” could be a given truth. When we consider the Guardian last week with ‘Saudi prince Miteb bin Abdullah pays $1bn in corruption settlement‘, some of us thought that it was interesting not just that the counts of corruption had already been investigated, the idea that there was a ‘get out of jail card‘ for a mere $1,000,000,000 is equally stunning, that I beside the fact that the sum has been agreed upon and that the head of the Saudi National Guard is apparently still smiling after having paid the amount. In light of one of the accusations “awarding contracts to his own firms, including a $10bn deal for walkie talkies and bulletproof military gear worth billions of Saudi riyals” we could see that the price is interestingly light. So does the Business insider have a case?

Well, when we consider how the oil prices have slumped from the almighty $135 to $58 we all have to wonder how the impact on the long term has been. pumping oil might be like printing money at your own convenience, but once the spending spree and the high rises are there, the long term issue is that oil is at 42% of what was and upping production by 193% is just not realistic in the long term. Yet there is another worry. the quote “a huge budget deficit, which stood at $79 billion in 2016. The government has had to use foreign reserves to help cover the revenue shortfall, with the former shrinking by about a third over the last three years. The recession has forced MbS to rein back public spending, alarming cosseted Saudis long accustomed to cradle-to-grave subsidies” does not give it. Even as that is merely the deficit, that and the selling of domestic debt in July gives rise to thoughts, yet we need to wonder how inflated this issue is, as it seems to be presented. Lets not forget that it is less than 10% of the Greek debt and unlike Greece, Saudi Arabia is still getting income from the oil fields. So the need to panic should not be there. And lets face it, who is actually panicking?

Even as the Business Insider is making a nice case. I fear I cannot agree on some of the ‘findings‘ and ‘assumed speculations‘ that they offer. With “So, in all likelihood, MbS will struggle to generate the money he needs. Worse still for him, his actions could have deleterious consequences for the economy. While the acquisition of assets and cash is likely to play well with ordinary Saudis weary of corruption amongst the royals and the business elite, it may unnerve already jittery foreign investors whose engagement is critical to the Crown Prince’s economic plans. Though allies have sought to portray the detentions as an anti-graft campaign aimed at cleaning up the corporate landscape, its apparently arbitrary nature and disregard for property rights and due process will worry the investment community“. You see, it might be correct to some extent, but knowing the greed that some have for mere millions, roughly 99.32554% of that population will not run away from optional billions, that is a given you can take to the bank. From my own point of view, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman can still have it all, the timeline might slip a little, but there are clear signs that there are options to grow opportunity within Saudi Arabia. They still have options to rival Al Jazeera if certain censoring is changed, By investing into tertiary degrees for Saudi’s its dependency for foreign workers will go down, which would be a massive boost for Saudi Arabia and as Saudi Arabia grows its entertainment network it can start opening doors on setting a 5G environment which will have them being amongst those leading the charge in the next mobile evolution which will enable a lot more industry all over the Middle East. In this aging day, pharmaceutical options seem to be the next step. There is no way it can compete with India, but in partnership with India they will have options to grow this industry internally. It seems like that need is too small for Saudi Arabia, yet with 28 million people it could profit by having an industry that is mainly for export within the Middle East that is comprised of 410 million people. That is still a large market that cannot be ignored and as the quality is proven and the export grows, Saudi Arabia could see a drastically reduced need for oil soon thereafter. There are more technology options for Saudi Arabia to enjoy, but the clear path of larger growth has been proven on several counts in several nations to be within the mobile and pharmaceutical industry and that could be the growing start for an entire next generation, because these two fields will have an almost exponential need for Patent lawyers, which means that the legal field will be pushed into revolutionary growth soon after that. Mind you, not merely a local growth, the IP field would enable global growth for Saudi Arabia as well and as this field is set in stone (or marble) it will attract even more foreign investors and opportunity seekers. All issues clearly set in this field and in this the Business Insider is still on the horse that states “The Crown Prince has staked his reputation on the success of an ambitious economic transformation plan, Vision 2030, to wean the country off its dependence on oil, but he needs to fund planned reforms and projects. He was banking on a part-floatation of the national oil company Aramco, which appears to have been postponed for at least a year. The ruthless purge and financial strong-arming could now deter the very western investors and regulators needed to move forward with the sell-off“, yet there is no given that other fields need to stop getting a foothold and as these two (or three) elements are grown within Saudi Arabia, other players will find options to get their own kind of fuzzy drink labelled ‘profit’ in their hands and as such they will still be fighting for a seat at this table called vision 2030. Even as the venue per plate is much higher than expected, the long terms gains are beyond what they are able to make now. With US deficits on the rise, the EU currently has 6 nations that are at risk of breaking the deficit rule (France, Italy, Belgium, Austria, Portugal and Slovenia), so there will be consequences there too, which would imply diminished profit, so those players are looking for seats at tables with loads of gain and that is where Saudi Arabia is one of the few that would accommodate their needs. So as such, Saudi Arabia has options if they have optional controls for greedy mobs. And even as there will be good news stories coming from Strasbourg, there will be eyes on the EU as it will likely dial down the consequences for these six nations. In addition with the Mario Draghi stimulus game where we will see a likely extension into 2018 yet at a lessened 30 billion a month implies that Europe will be diving into close to half a trillion of additional debt, with the likely result that there will be nothing to show for it, no actual economic growth, so in all this debt driven society, Saudi Arabia could have a larger windfall if it plays its cards right. Once certain plays are in place, Saudi Arabia would be more and more primed for export and exporting opportunities to places that ignored and neglected its own infrastructure. In this the US would have to cut costs and corners to a level never seen before as it optionally faces the ridicule for being at best at par and more likely to stray behind Saudi Arabia in the 5G mobile networking, a field they were once the only one dominating in. What a massive set back that will be for the old USA. In this Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could have the forefront by preferring the Polytechnic sciences over Politics. In his role he cannot avoid politics, but by focussing on Science and technology he has the option to propel Saudi Arabia beyond what others thought possible. So even as it has its issues with deficits and treasury needs, can we rely on the Business Insider that it is so much worse than we expect? I for one am not convinced that this is the case. I might be wrong, but the fact that the larger players are still willing to sell their first born for a seat at that table makes me think that there are a lot more opportunities for investors than many perceive. the question becomes does the House of Saud feel safe letting these opportunities go beyond the national borders to other players? It is always a rocky road to travel. In the end I do believe that it is more about the speed of growth and less about who owns the growth. that should keep plenty of investors tallying their optional profits for some time to come.

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Prospecting black gold

There has been news all over the world, some news is good, some less so and at times we cannot see whether news is good, bad or irrelevant. To see the dangers, or perhaps the opportunity of what is what we need to look back to 2014, and start that issue with a quote from the Marvel Movie: Age of Ultron. The quote originally from Tony Stark was: “As I always say, keep your friends rich, and your enemies rich, and then find out which is which“, it is a reference to the arms industry and the benefit of mutual escalation. Keep this in mind when you consider the article in the Independent (at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/royal-mail-float-scandal-how-hedge-funds-cleaned-up-9303674.html), the title gives us the immediate threat with ‘Royal Mail float scandal: how hedge funds cleaned up‘, and “Speculators were allowed to buy £150m of shares despite Vince Cable’s pledge to favour long-term investors“, I omitted the claim that it was all due to the postman. That person usually rings twice, especially when Jessica Lange is around. Yet the heart of the matter, like in the movie, is not in the ‘boner’ or the ‘bonee’, it is the aftermath that matters. You see, the gem is seen in the local prosecutor and his ploy to get to the truth by going after one side, yet it is Cora’s Lawyer Katz who stops the evidence to get to the prosecutor, which nullifies whatever was attempted. So consider the part we see in the Independent: “around 20 per cent of the shares it had allocated to 16 preferred investors had gone to hedge funds and other short-term investors. This would equate to around £150m of Royal Mail shares – 13 per cent of the entire stock sold by the Government. The companies bought in at the float price of 330p a share. The shares shot up within seconds of trading, eventually peaking within weeks at more than 600p, allowing the hedge funds to bank vast profits at the taxpayers’ expense“, now consider also that this is a reflection of ‘£150m of Royal Mail shares‘. A system that has issues and allows for ‘deal sweeteners‘, now when you see this, and knowing that the bulk of hedge funds managers seem to get away with murder, consider the arrival of Aramco, better stated, the Financial Times headline ‘The $2tn Saudi Aramco question‘, which is now squarely an issue of titanic proportions (intentional pun towards the sinking dinghy). First things first, you see, this is not a fuel vendor like Shell, or a social media company like Facebook, this is the Privatised Saudi oil company that is larger than the sum of Shell, Facebook, Apple and Google. It is a 2 trillion dollar company, now consider the danger of the floating dangers of something like that, hedge funds managers can clean up and those who do will be set for a decadent life, for the rest of their lives. The dangers of something this big is pretty astounding and the fact that it could happen is not that small. You see, the dangers increases as we consider certain facts. NASDAQ gives us: “OPEC agreed in November last year to curb its output by about 1.2 million barrels per day between January and June“, that is because the stocks are a little higher than expected. This happens, oil will always fluctuate, now consider in the US alone there are 32 oil fired power plants. Production is down (for now) and the moment the first heatwave gets to the US, we see a massive spike in power requirements and 32 of those power makers require fossil fuel. In this I am only mentioning the USA, there has been power issues on a global scale, which is always going to be the case, but one of the largest providers towards the demand is going public and that is what speculators really like, because if the supply & demand need is not properly managed, we see an increase option towards fluctuation. Those speculators only need to get lucky once and the mess would be unrepairable.

The Financial Times gives us some of the goods with: “Privatising Aramco is the first step in rebalancing the economy. By disentangling the company, which accounts for more than two-thirds of government revenues, from the state, Prince Mohammed hopes to make Riyadh less oil-reliant, while providing capital for investment in new industries, ranging from technology, where it is pumping $45bn into the SoftBank Vision Fund, to mining. The privatisation of its national champion is crucial to this process” (at https://www.ft.com/content/7ed59bee-163b-11e7-b0c1-37e417ee6c76), but the heart is seen in: “That is even without looking at the question of how much oil actually lies beneath the desert kingdom’s sands“, when we consider that the oil gains in the North sea is slowing down and this is a signal seen in several places, the fact that at some point (in past, present or future) that something similar will happen to the Aramco goods is a certain fact, it is the when that cannot be anticipated. In addition, going public means that you need to be commercial, when it is government no one really cares, but in the public sector the trend must forever be upwards, so when will we see a similar float in Aramco when the numbers are not as great? It has been an utter certainty that nearly all companies go through, some did it calculated knowing they would kill the numbers within a quarter, some hoping they would kill the numbers and some did it whilst they were desperate for a miracle. Yet floating they went. How much of a $2 trillion dollar company in stock value will tumble when that happens?

And these are the circumstances where the acts were valid and not criminal at all (see UK Mail), I am not making any Tesco assumptions here, because the damage in that case will be devastating to the London Stock Exchange. One firm representing close to 70% of its entire market, there would be no London Stock Exchange after such a disaster. Bloomberg gives us the second tier of risks and dangers with ‘Saudi Aramco Cuts Oil Pricing for Europe Where Russia Dominates‘ (at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-05/saudi-aramco-lowers-some-crude-pricing-for-asia-raises-for-u-s), a market that Russia already dominates. What would happen if let’s say 3 days after going public, Russia decides to slash their prices for a short time? How would the market react? Not just to Aramco having to follow, but the forecasted annual numbers then take a dive, at who’s expense? Consider that the European market is ‘ruled’ by Russia and Norway, together they make up for 50% of that market and the Saudi part is smaller than Norway and 80% of that 50% market is just Russia. So they can influence the market a fair bit. You see, Bloomberg gives us “There is a risk price wars may resume in Europe, raising the possibility the output cut agreement won’t be extended to the second half of this year“, meaning that in the second half Russia could flood the markets and the streets with black gold. That impact would be felt all over the stock market. There is one part that I am uncertain on. You see, it reads like a small and insignificant part. The quote: “Aramco will tweak the benchmark it uses in the region to make it easier for crude buyers to hedge their purchases” seems small, but consider that hedging is done by a few hundred buyers for up to 25,000 barrels. It seems like nothing, but with 179 buyers it is almost a week worth of crude oil, now the ‘stock is full‘ issue becomes a larger one, because this is a level of fluctuation on stock levels that would impact on the stock prices, the mere stock is full a few weeks ago had a $3 impact (or 4.6%), that becomes a little more than insignificant. Now, I could be wrong here as I am not in the oil, yet you see that this is a concern when it impacts a $2T invested interest by more than just hedge funds managers.

The last part comes from the Guardian. In Jan 2016 they stated “Saudi Aramco is likely to be worth well over $1tn (£685bn)“, this is important as we do not see 1.2 or 1.5 trillion, so this given number implies that in a year Saudi Aramco grow by more than 40%, the exact number cannot be determined. Other media stated that Aramco had grown to 2 trillion last year, but none have given enough evidence to state which number is the reliable one. That too impacts this new market, especially the initial dangers of floating a stock. Yesterday (at https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/05/theresa-may-lse-saudi-aramco-uk-london-stock-exchange-oil) we see: ‘May and LSE chief woo Saudi ministers for $2tn Aramco listing‘, here we see: “Xavier Rolet, has launched a charm offensive in Riyadh to woo Saudi ministers with the prospect of London hosting the upcoming flotation of Saudi state oil company Aramco, which is likely to be the largest of all time“, the word ‘flotation‘ is given and the danger is now out and about, in clear view of all. So as the UK government is trying to appease Khalid Al-Falih, energy minister of Saudi Arabia (and CEO of Aramco), as well as Yasir al-Rumayyan, the director of the Saudi public investment fund – a sovereign wealth fund, I have to wonder where the Rothschild’s are, because there is no way in heaven or hell that the Rothschild family would be absent of a 5% of a $2T company option and not be a player in something with the ROI of billions, especially after the losses they had with Kurdistan and Africa. They have skin in the game now, and they need a victory in this field, their ego demands it from themselves!

In all this the final part given in the Guardian must not be overlooked, because the quote “Downing Street announced on Monday it had drawn up plans with Riyadh to boost support for Saudi’s much-vaunted Vision 2030 strategic plan for diversifying the Saudi economy to decrease its over-reliance on oil, spearheaded by the deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who met May on Tuesday“, as this now offers the level of revenue to fund the ability to become the largest 5G player in the middle east, with options to diversify into Europe, the far East and America. It is perhaps the first time in history that a public company would shoot to a top position in mobile communication, ready to set the market and their values in a few ways on a global scale. For the simple reason that moving into technology and not go for the new tech that will determine the fate of the large mobile and telecom players between 2019 and 2027 seems extremely short-sighted.

 

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