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Letter from the Middle East: Saudi Arabia ponders oil privatisation

The Kingdom is weighing up a potential midstream asset sale following an innovative funding move in the UAE

Saudi Arabia took the unprecedented step back in 2001 of offering rights for hydrocarbons development to international companies, following a decade-and-a-half of fiscal stringency. Two decades later, seven years into a prolonged oil price slump, and after more than a year of a pandemic and steep production cuts, major asset sales and other fund-raising schemes are again on the table. The challenge for the Kingdom is whether these will represent a change in mindset, rather than just a cash grab for the restructuring of the country’s economy. The 2001 Gas Initiative featured Shell, ExxonMobil, Total and other luminaries, but state oil company Saudi Aramco staged a campaign of passive resista

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