The Saudi sovereign wealth fund has bought stakes worth a combined $1 billion in four European oil majors: Shell, Total, Eni, and Equinor, the Wall Street Journal reported citing unnamed people in the know.
The Saudi fund, the sources said, was taking advantage of the oil price collapse that drove down oil companies’ stocks, making them a bargain for those with the money to buy. The fund may well continue to build stakes in large industry players, too.
The Saudi Public Investment Fund manages more than $300 billion in assets, and the primary vehicle of the Kingdom’s economic diversification push spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed. Amassing large stakes in oil majors is hardly the diversification one imagines for an oil-dependent economy. Still, European oil players have demonstrated greater resilience to market shocks than most American companies, which makes PIF’s move understandable.
The stock market rout that made the shares of European supermajors a bargain was, in large part, caused by Saudi Arabia, after it threatened to flood the world with oil when Russia refused to deepen production cuts agreed last year. It made good on the threat, according to Bloomberg shipping data, with at least seven supertankers en route to the U.S. Gulf Coast carrying some 14 million barrels since the start of the month. That’s up from just 2 million barrels for the first third of March.
Yet the bargain window for oil stocks may be about to close, again not least because of Saudi Arabia’s efforts, this time in the production control department. The Kingdom is meeting virtually today with its fellow OPEC members and partners led by Russia to discuss oil production cuts, although most note that discussions are already underway, and what we are likely to hear later today is the official announcement of whether there will or won’t be cuts.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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