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World's biggest oil company names new CEO in Saudi reshuffle

[KUWAIT] Saudi Arabia's state-run oil company made wide-ranging leadership changes, including a new role for the king's son.

Saudi Aramco, which has the ability to pump 12 million barrels of crude a day, named Amin Nasser as interim chief executive officer, according to a company statement. Khalid al- Falih, who was president and CEO of Aramco prior to Nasser, replaced Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi as chairman. The producer earlier announced the formation of a new supreme board to oversee its affairs, led by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the king's son and second in line to the throne.

Saudi Arabia is pumping near-record amounts of crude, leading the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in a policy of maintaining output to encourage producers outside the group to tackle an oversupply. When King Abdullah, the previous ruler, died at the end of January, oil analysts anticipated few changes to the nation's production and export policies.

"There will be greater coordination at a macro level," John Sfakianakis, the Riyadh-based director of the Middle East at investment manager Ashmore Group Plc, said by phone from Riyadh. "Changes at Saudi Aramco are part and parcel of the wider reorganization of the way the Saudi government functions."

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Mr Nasser, senior vice president for upstream until the appointment, has held a range of roles at Saudi Aramco, according to the company's website. He became chief petroleum engineer in April 2004 and executive director of Petroleum Engineering and Development in May 2005.

Mr Falih was appointed Saudi Arabia's minister of health on April 28, according to the company's website.

The new 10-member supreme board will be led by Mr bin Salman, who's also chairman of Saudi Arabia's Council of Economic Affairs and Development, Saudi Aramco said in a statement on its website on Friday. The Supreme Petroleum Council, which previously set oil policy and was led by the late king, will be dissolved, according to the statement.

"The vision and mission of Aramco is now becoming bigger with this Supreme council," Mohammed al-Ramady, professor of economics at King Fahd University for Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, said by phone. "The establishment of Aramco's supreme council completes the economic restructuring and centralization of authority and oversight of the key critical Saudi pillars of the economy."