Oil prices down after lower-than-expected inventory draw

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al Falih speaks to journalists at an OPEC conference in Vienna Austria

On Wednesday, the company released its first audit of reserves since 1980, showing why "Aramco is the world's most valuable company and indeed the world's most important", according to Al-Falih.

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia will slash its oil exports in January by 10 per cent compared to November, its energy minister said on Wednesday as producers move to shore up tumbling prices.

Saudi Aramco plans to tap the debt market in the second quarter to finance the acquisition of petrochemical giant Sabic, likely issuing its first ever global bond and disclosing its accounts in the process.

That debt sale would force the world's largest oil producer to disclose its accounts to investors for the first time since its nationalisation roughly four decades ago.

Crude oil prices appeared headed lower Thursday after a US report showed a lower-than-expected inventory draw, and also as trade talks earlier this week between China and the United States did not show a clear direction.

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With the creation of RetailCo, a wholly owned subsidiary established for fuel retailing, "Saudi Aramco will be creating a sustainable and profitable business model for integrating across the hydrocarbon value chain", said Ahmed A. Al-Subaey, vice president of Marketing, Sales, and Supply Planning and chairman of the board of RetailCo. "We believe that having bonds and commercial paper as one of its sources of capital is prudent and necessary". The external audit was started as part of preparations for the initial public offering of state oil company Saudi Aramco.

The Saudi energy minister also confirmed the date that the Kingdom has been giving lately for Aramco's IPO to finally take place-2021. "But the trade negotiations between the USA and China still add some uncertainty to global financial and oil markets, possibly leading to corrections in prices in the shorter term".

The bond, likely to be combined with bank loans, would allow state-owned Aramco to pay the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund for its 70 per cent stake in Sabic.

Aramco has so far largely avoided bond markets, relying nearly exclusively on its own cash or bank loans. The nation's actual oil and gas holdings are bigger than the announced numbers, which are for proven reserves and don't include those that are probable, Al-Falih told a news conference in Riyadh.

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