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Saudi Aramco set to sell extra oil to hungry Asian buyers

Singapore

SAUDI Arabia is set to supply more crude to oil-starved Asian refiners, and extract a heavy price for it.

State-run producer Saudi Aramco will sell additional cargoes to customers in the world's biggest oil-consuming region for June loading, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The shipments will be on top of those scheduled under long-term crude contracts, they said, asking not to be identified because the information is confidential.

While the extra supplies will alleviate a squeeze driven by US sanctions on Iran and Venezuela as well as unexpected disruptions from Russia to Nigeria, the refiners face a costly bill. Aramco raised its official selling price for June cargoes of its flagship Arab Light crude to the biggest premium to Middle East benchmark prices in 11 months. The cost of the Arab Medium variety was set at highest since December 2013, while Arab Heavy was increased to the most in over six years.

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The higher costs aren't expected to deter Asian buyers, who had earlier this month asked Opec's biggest producer for additional supplies even before the kingdom set its pricing for June cargoes.

The scramble for shipments follows the May 2 expiry of US sanctions waivers for buyers of Iranian oil, which the White House decided not to renew as part of its campaign to squeeze Tehran's finances.

Global benchmark Brent crude fell as much as 0.8 per cent to US$70.66 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange and traded down 47 US cents at US$70.77 by 9:08 am in London. Prices slipped 1.8 per cent last week, after gaining in the previous five weeks.

Refiners in India, where oil demand is growing at the fastest pace in the world, are set to receive as much as 200,000 barrels a day of incremental supplies, the people said. Some refiners in China, the top crude importer, and Japan will also receive additional shipments, they said.

The press office for Aramco, known officially Saudi Arabian Oil Co, couldn't immediately comment. BLOOMBERG