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Saudi Arabia cuts Jan oil price to Asia to 4-month low to keep market share
[NEW YORK] Saudi Aramco has cut the January price for its Arab Light crude for Asian customers to the lowest in four months as it holds to a strategy of preserving market share in the world's fastest-growing demand centre.
The price cuts are meant to ensure that Aramco can still sell more oil into Asia even after going along with the Opec-Russia deal to cut output. The Saudis have been struggling over the last two years to fight off increased competition from other producers in the Middle East, Russia and the Atlantic Basin.
Saudi Aramco said on Tuesday it cut the price of Arab Light crude sales to Asia by US$1.20 a barrel versus December to a discount of US$0.75 a barrel to the Oman/Dubai average.
January's price cuts of US$0.60-US$1.50 across all Saudi crude grades are small compared with a near US$10 a barrel gain in global benchmark Brent futures in the past week. Brent hit 16-month high on Monday after Opec and Russia struck a deal last week to cut production from January.
"Ahead of the Opec cut, producers are pumping at maximum output, so they must price to sell," said a trader with a North Asian refiner who declined to be named due to company policy.
Russian oil production hit an all time high in November, according to official energy ministry data, while a Reuters survey found that output from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) was also at a record for the month.
Prior to the Opec output deal, Saudi Aramco agreed to supply some customers in Asia with additional oil that will load in January to help them meet winter demand.
EUROPE PRICE HIKE
The company raised its Arab Light OSP to Northwest Europe by US$0.30 a barrel for January from the previous month at a discount of US$4.20 a barrel to the Brent Weighted Average (Bwave).
The Arab Light OSP to the United States was set at a premium of US$0.05 a barrel to the Argus Sour Crude Index (ASCI) for January, down US$0.30 a barrel from the previous month.
Because the Brent to Dubai Arab Light prompt month spread rose to US$3.15 a barrel from US$2.55 after the Opec deal, Saudi Arabia had more leeway to raise their OSPs to Europe and remain competitive, said Jeff Quigley, Energy Markets Director at Stratas Advisors, a Houston-based consultancy.
"They are trying to capitalise on the Opec deal-driven price increase in Europe while not losing market share in Asia," Mr Quigley said.