Kuwait Petroleum said to reassess $500 billion spending plan

By Fiona MacDonald on 2/10/2019

KUWAIT (Bloomberg) — Kuwait Petroleum Corp. is reassessing plans to spend about $500 billion in capital investment and may decide this year to combine its eight business units into four to streamline the company, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Lower oil prices, Kuwait’s reduced output under a deal by OPEC to pump less crude, and a reevaluation of how best to spend the money have prompted the review, the person said, asking not to be identified as the potential changes have yet to be approved. The company announced plans last year to spend about $500 billion on capital projects until 2040.

State-run KPC also may merge Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Co., Kuwait Oil Tanker Co., Kuwait Gulf Oil Co. and Kuwait Integrated Petroleum Industries Co. into larger units as part of its long-term strategy, the person said. The consolidation would still require approval from the government’s Supreme Petroleum Council, the person said.

The company’s media office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Projects Delayed

Kuwait’s former oil minister resigned in December amid persistent internal disputes that have delayed projects. The emirate’s oil industry, which provides more than 90 percent of public revenue, has been caught up in political wrangling for about two decades. KPC is seeking to expand in refining and petrochemicals amid a 28% drop in benchmark Brent crude since Oct. 3.

With oil prices at levels barely adequate to balance the budgets of Gulf Arab monarchies, governments are trying to stay competitive, triggering an unprecedented regional consolidation wave. Qatar Petroleum merged its two liquefied natural gas units in 2018. Saudi Aramco, the biggest oil exporter, is in talks to acquire petrochemicals maker Saudi Basic Industries Corp., in what would be the kingdom’s largest-ever M&A deal. The trend extends into banking, aviation and sovereign wealth funds.

KPC rearranged the senior management at each of its eight units earlier in February, appointing only acting CEOs in some cases, setting the stage for possible internal consolidation, the person said. Mergers of the subsidiaries could take as long as two years to complete, the person said.

As part of its reassessment of planned spending, KPC is reviewing investment in so-called heavy oil, which is costly to produce, the person said. It’s targeting production of 85,000 barrels a day of heavy oil by 2020 or 2021 and is investing to develop reservoirs of the dense crude.

Kuwait, the fourth-biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, pumped 2.75 MMbopd in January, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

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