Saudi Ara­bia Not Con­fi­dent OPEC Can Reach Agree­ment on Cuts


VIENNA (Dis­patches) - OPEC mem­bers and other oil-pro­duc­ing coun­tries may not be able to agree a re­duc­tion in out­put to help shore up plung­ing prices, Saudi Ara­bia said on Thurs­day.

“No, I am not con­fi­dent,” Saudi oil minister Khalid Al-Falih told re­porters af­ter com­ing out of a meet­ing of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Petroleum Ex­port­ing Coun­tries in Vienna. “We’re still de­bat­ing the dis­tri­bu­tion” of any pos­si­ble cuts, he added.

Iraqi minister Thamir Ab­bas Al Ghad­hban said de­lib­er­a­tions was to con­tinue on Fri­day. But he said: “We are hope­ful that an agree­ment can reached.”

Un­usu­ally, the oil car­tel had scrapped a planned news con­fer­ence on Thurs­day at which the mem­bers had largely been ex­pected to an­nounce a new re­duc­tion in out­put to stem the re­cent sharp drop in the price of crude.

OPEC’s 15 mem­bers had been meet­ing in the Aus­trian cap­i­tal on Thurs­day to de­cide what ac­tion to take, a day af­ter US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump took to Twit­ter to urge them not to cut out­put.

“Hope­fully OPEC will be keep­ing oil flows as is, not re­stricted. The World does not want to see, or need, higher oil prices!” said Trump, who has re­peat­edly ac­cused the car­tel of keep­ing prices ar­ti­fi­cially high.

The group is sched­uled to meet again on Fri­day, this time with other oil-pro­duc­ing coun­tries that are out­side the car­tel -- no­tably Rus­sia -- to co­or­di­nate a joint pol­icy.

Ear­lier, Saudi oil minister al-Falih had said that a cut of a mil­lion bar­rels per day would be ideal.

“Ideally, ev­ery­one should join equally. I think that’s the fair and eq­ui­table so­lu­tion,” he said. OPEC daily out­put stood at 32.99 mil­lion bar­rels in Oc­to­ber, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency.

Nev­er­the­less, the vol­ume and dis­tri­bu­tion of the cuts will de­pend on the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Rus­sia, whose en­ergy minister Alexan­der No­vak was only ex­pected in Vienna on Fri­day.

No­vak, speak­ing from Saint Peters­burg on Thurs­day, said that his coun­try was watch­ing closely how the sit­u­a­tion was de­vel­op­ing.

But with Rus­sia head­ing into win­ter, “cli­mate con­di­tions” made it “much more dif­fi­cult (to cut out­put) than for other coun­tries,” he said.

An­a­lysts took that as a hint that Rus­sia might only sign up to ad­di­tional cuts at a later date.

The price of a bar­rel of Brent, the Euro­pean benchmark, fell four per­cent to be­low $60 Thurs­day be­cause the pro­jected re­duc­tion of around one mil­lion bar­rels was be­low what mar­kets had been ex­pect­ing, said CMC an­a­lyst, David Mad­den.

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