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Aramco Charges Asia More for Oil as Refinery Profits Swell

Saudi Arabia nudged pricing higher for December sales of all its crude grades to Asia, where refiners that buy its oil are earning bigger profits. The world’s largest crude exporter cut pricing for U.S. customers as it fights to retain market share.

State-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co. increased its official selling price for Arab Light crude to Asia by 30 cents to a discount of $1.30 below the regional benchmark, the company said in an e-mailed statement. That beat expectations for a 25-cent increase, according to the median estimate of of six refiners and traders surveyed by Bloomberg this week.

“Asia’s refinery margins are good, so the Saudis see enough demand to warrant slightly higher prices,” Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank A/S in Copenhagen, said by phone. “They’re still pursuing the market share approach to keep up sales in the region.”

Oil from the Middle East competes in Asia with cargoes from Latin America, North Africa and Russia. In the U.S., production augmented by output from shale wells has displaced some imported oil and forced sellers of non-U.S. crude to look for buyers elsewhere, intensifying the contest for sales. Saudi Arabia has led the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to squeeze some higher-cost...