Oil and gas dominated news last week

NICOSIA - Oil and gas again dominated the Middle East economic week, with an attack on Iraqi oil terminals sending jitters through the markets and as producers spoke more favourably about raising the reference price of crude.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sat 1 May 2004, 10:21 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 12:21 PM

Suicide boat strikes last Saturday on Iraq's main southern oil terminal at Basra halted the export of some three million barrels of crude.

However, exports resumed early on Sunday morning from the Khor Al Amaya terminal, which handles 400,000 barrels a day (bpd) and at the larger Al Basra terminal on Sunday night, where the volume is 1.6 million bpd. But oil prices pushed higher on Monday, as traders reacted nervously to news of the attacks, and stayed higher all week, though easing from highs toward the end.

Another factor keeping prices firm was concern that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries might revise upwards its $22 to $28 a barrel price range for crude, which has been overshot by actual prices for months.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali Al Naimi said his country remains committed to the four-year-old price range, appearing to rule out a rise in the price band.

But on Thursday, Qatari Energy Minister Abdullah Al Attiya hinted that Opec would likely review the band at an informal meeting during an international oil summit in Amsterdam on May 21.

He stressed, however, that no official proposal had been put forward to change the band.

Group of Seven finance ministers and central bank governors warned in Washington last weekend that energy prices cast a shadow over prospects for a rapidly recovering global economy.

Other warnings have come from Jean-Claude Trichet, head of the European Central Bank, as well as bank chief economist Otmar Issing, who on Thursday said oil prices had reached "a critical level."

Also on Thursday, International Energy Agency executive director Claude Mandil, informed of the possibility of an Opec price band expansion, said: "If it's true, it's a pity."

At the pump, meanwhile, the Iranian parliament voted to more than double the heavily subsidised retail price of gasoline. The decision, part of a 2005-2010 economic plan, will push the price per litre to 2,000 riyals (about 25 cents) from less than 800 riyals if it is approved by the constitutional watchdog.

But in news that could be positive for consumers, Libya announced last Saturday that its first oil sales to the United States could come in May, following the lifting of US sanctions on the country.

Meanwhile, in regional corporate earnings news, Dubai's airline Emirates Group reported record profits of Dh1.75 billion ($476 million) in the year to March 31, an increase of 67 per cent on the previous year despite war in Iraq and SARS in Asia.

"It has been an another challenging and successful year," chairman Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said, adding that total revenue had reached an all-time high of Dh14 billion, up 35.5 per cent on last year.

Emirates state-owned telecoms company Etisalat announced first-quarter net profits on Wednesday of Dh822 million ($224 million), up 19 per cent on a year earlier.

Operating profits of the state monopoly also rose 19 per cent to Dh799.7 million. And Emirates Bank International announced on Monday first-quarter net profits of Dh181.70 million ($49.5 million), up 35.3 per cent on a year earlier.

The rise was on the back of interest income, fees, commission and other income, which rose to Dh324.50 million from Dh248.41 million. Bahrain-based Gulf International Bank reported on Sunday first-quarter net income of $39.2 million, up 42 per cent from a year earlier, on higher non-interest earnings and a lower level of provisions.

In other corporate news, Iran has decided to award French oil giant Total a $1.2 billion contract to develop phase 11 of the massive South Pars offshore gas field, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanghaneh said on Sunday.

Arabtec Construction LLC of the UAE announced on Tuesday that it has won a Dh1.7 billion ($463 million) contract to build 13 tower blocks for a sprawling residential project in Dubai.

The deal marks the single largest residential deal ever awarded to a company in the UAE, it said. And Qatar, which boasts the world's third largest gas reserves, announced on Sunday the inauguration of a new $535 million fertiliser plant built by Qatar Fertiliser Co.


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