LONDON/DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Aramco’s trading arm plans to open an office in London soon as it expands its international business, sources familiar with the move said.
Aramco Trading Co (ATC) also opened an office in the bunkering hub of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates in December to trade oil products and hired two traders from Trafigura and PetroChina to run operations there, the sources said.
“Last June, a trading office was inaugurated in Singapore, and last December (another) in Fujairah and very soon in London, just like any trading house,” one of the sources said.
Another source said: “They have moved a few trading desks to Singapore and Fujairah. London is surely next.”
A third source said the London office might be inaugurated as early as next week during International Petroleum (IP) Week, an industry event held annually in the British capital.
Saudi Aramco, the parent company, already has an office in Marylebone, London. The ATC London operations may be located in the same place as the parent company and are likely to start with a handful of crude oil traders, one of the sources said.
ATC did not immediately respond to a request to comment.
The trading sector faces increased rivalry between national oil companies (NOCs), international oil firms and Swiss merchants. NOCs have cheap feedstock and strength in refining, allowing them to compete aggressively with oil majors and especially traders that lack their own production.
ATC aims to boost its trading volumes in crude and refined products to 6 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2020 and the company’s headquarters will remain in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, ATC’s chief executive told Reuters last year.
The CEO, Ibrahim al-Buainain, also said the plan to open an ATC regional office in Europe - either London or Geneva - was set for the first quarter of 2019.
Middle East oil producers are venturing into buying and selling oil to boost their incomes as a sharp drop in crude prices since mid-2014 has forced the industry to become more efficient and commercially focused.
State-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Co is establishing a new trading operation along with Italy’s Eni and Austria’s OMV.
ATC was set up in 2012 initially to market refined products, base oils and bulk petrochemicals, but has since expanded into crude trading mainly to feed international Aramco joint ventures such as the U.S. Motiva refinery and S-Oil in South Korea.
Aramco, the world’s top oil producer and exporter, aims to become the largest integrated energy firm, with plans to expand refining operations and petrochemical output. It pumps around 10 million bpd of crude, of which it exports about 7 million bpd.
The company plans to raise its refining capacity - inside Saudi Arabia and abroad - to 8-10 million bpd, from around 5.4 million bpd now. Aramco is expanding its refining business at home as well as in new markets particularly in Asia.
Writing by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Dale Hudson