Saudi Arabia replaces energy czar with prince as oil prices slump


Saudi Arabia's King Salman appointed his son as energy minister after veteran official Khalid al-Falih was sacked, state media said on Sunday, in a major shakeup as the OPEC kingpin reels from low oil prices.

Prince Salman is the king's son and the brother of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Falih's powers were diminished last month when the world's top oil exporter announced the creation of a new ministry of industry and mineral resources, separating it from his energy ministry.

Some industry insiders say the prince's lengthy experience has overcome what has always been seen as the impossibility of appointing a royal to the post of energy minister in Saudi Arabia.

Prince Abdulaziz, a long time top Energy Ministry official, is half-brother to the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but the two aren't believed to be close and are quite far apart in age.

Prince Abdulaziz is a longstanding member of the No. 1 crude exporter's delegation to the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), with decades of experience in the oil sector, Al Jazeera reported.

Deeper production cuts are "not a decision that we take easily", the minister said ahead of the four-day World Energy Congress starting Monday in Abu Dhabi, where a key meeting of oil ministers will also be held on Thursday.

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Mills said Prince Abdulaziz will likely maintain the deal al-Falih struck with global oil producers to cut production, and not be able to increase them given the current market conditions.

Aramco's new board chairman that substituted al-Falih is the finance-minded Yasir al-Rumayyan, who heads the Public Investment Fund, the nation's autonomous wealth finance. It signaled a possible rift with the crown prince over his management of various issues, including reportedly moving too slowly in advancing Prince Mohammed's plan to sell shares in the state-owned oil company Aramco.

Aramco has not announced where the listing will be held, but London, New York and Hong Kong have all vied for a slice.

His diminishing role had led to reports that he was out of favour with the crown prince, who is pushing to diversify the Saudi economy away from its dependence on oil revenue for survival. Oil traders will be waiting to see whether the change of ministers will mean a change in Saudi policy. He didn't mention a new deputy energy minister.

Al-Falih, who'd been energy ministry since 2016, was tasked with playing an essential part in the prince's financial reform of the nation.

Meanwhile, United Arab Emirates' energy minister Suheil Al-Mazrouei said, oil producers will do "whatever necessary" to rebalance a crude market depressed by trade tensions and an uncertain global outlooky.