Breakingviews

Saudi building bust may demolish prince’s reforms

August 19, 2016

Low oil prices have left thousands of foreign construction workers stranded without pay, and some building companies in financial trouble. Saudi is trying to diversify away from oil, make economic reforms and avoid disrupting the social order. It’s not easy to do all three.

It’s not how much oil, but how much influence

July 5, 2016

The U.S. has more oil than Saudi Arabia, according to Rystad Energy. But oil reserves are only worth counting if there’s a chance they can be produced economically over time. Size is much less important than an ability to guide the price - and there, Saudi still rules.

Singapore, Saudi put corporate do-gooders on spot

June 9, 2016

Banks covet business in Saudi Arabia despite its poor human rights. They can say it’s the direction of travel that counts. Singapore, which just told groups like Goldman Sachs to stop backing a gay and lesbian event, is going backwards. It puts corporate sincerity to the test.

Qatar’s debt bonanza stores up problems for future

May 27, 2016

Too much of a good thing could be bad for the Gulf state. It has just raised a whopping $9 billion in the bond market thanks to investors’ hunger for yield. Loading up on debt will help Qatar cope with lower energy prices, but just dodges its biggest problem: lavish spending.

Saudi’s three great pillars are showing cracks

May 24, 2016

Oil, Islam and the ruling family of Al Saud bind the kingdom together. But low commodity prices and disruptive economic reforms risk opening up divisions within the ruling class. That in turn could unpick the all-important 80-year pact between religious leaders and the state.

Saudi reshuffle points to era of oil volatility

May 9, 2016

Ali al-Naimi, just fired as oil minister, was the architect of a bitter price war but also had successes reaching consensus with OPEC. His successor Khalid al-Falih may lack the same influence. It suggests a more centralised Saudi establishment, but more discord in oil markets.

Saudi Arabia’s post-oil reform vision looks blurry

April 25, 2016

Riyadh’s new plan to reform the economy, Vision 2030, entails creating a giant SWF and listing a stake in state oil firm Aramco. It will raise cash, but won’t solve the kingdom’s crude problem. To truly advance as an economy, Saudi needs greater economic and social openness.

Chancellor: Oil prices don’t need a Doha to rise

April 22, 2016

An agreement among feuding OPEC members to cut production may still be elusive. But the Saudis and other oil-producing nations are in no position to ramp up. As U.S. oil output is set to fall sharply this year, the price of energy is likely to keep heading upwards.

Saudi’s sweet debt deal could rebound on banks

April 21, 2016

The kingdom is close to its first international debt deal in 25 years to plug a hole in its finances caused by weak oil prices. Vast oil reserves make Saudi debt enticing, but the price slump is changing the game in several ways. And Middle East states have defaulted before.

Saudi U.S. selloff threat not to be trifled with

April 20, 2016

The kingdom has told lawmakers it would dump some $750 bln of assets should Congress pass a bill allowing 9/11 victims to sue. These funds are its last line of defense to lower oil prices. That the alternative - having assets frozen - is an even worse outcome is scarier still.