Saudi assets approach $1 trillion

Strong oil prices will likely ally with high crude output to catapult Saudi Arabia’s net foreign assets by a whopping $356 billion in the next two years to an all-time high of just below $one trillion, according to a Saudi bank.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign assets already gained just under $100 billion through 2011 because of high oil prices and output and their level is projected to soar to $778 billion at the end of 2012, Saudi American Bank Group (SAMBA) said in its quarterly report on Saudi Arabia and other Gulf oil producers.

At the end of 2013, the assets controlled by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), central bank, could peak $926 billion, it said.

At that level, the assets will account for nearly 144 per cent of the Gulf Kingdom’s projected GDP of $642 billion in 2013.

SAMBA said the surge would be a result of robust oil prices and high crude supplies by the world’s oil superpower, adding that this would also allow it to record massive fiscal and current account surpluses.

It forecast the current account surplus would swell from around 27.8 per cent of GDP in 2011 to 33 per cent in 2012 before falling back to 23 per cent in 2013. The fiscal surplus is expected to widen from 14.8 per cent of GDP to 19.9 per cent in 2012 before slipping to 14.2 per cent in 2013.

Oil provides more than two thirds of Saudi Arabia’s income and the surge in crude prices last year largely expanded its current account and fiscal surpluses while boosting GDP growth to 6.8 per cent.

Oil prices averaged around $105 a barrel last year and are projected by many international agencies to end this year higher. At the same time, Saudi Arabia said last month it was pumping at peak levels of around 10 million bpd.

Higher oil prices and production boosted Saudi Arabia’s foreign assets by nearly SR352 billion in 2011 to an all time high of SR2,057 billion before hitting another record of SR2,154 billion at the end of March this year.

It was the biggest annual increase in the foreign assets since 2008, when they rocketed by a whopping SR513 billion mainly because of a 50 per cent rise in crude prices that allowed the largest Arab economy to record its highest fiscal surplus of SR580 billion.

The increase last year was also more than double the assets growth of around SR135 billion through 2010, when they ended the year at SR1,705 billion compared with SR1,570 billion at the end of 2009.

A surge in oil prices to a record high average along with a one million bpd increase in Saudi Arabia’s crude production widened its fiscal surplus to nearly SR307 billion in 2011 from SR87 billion in 2011. The current account surplus also shot up to $156 billion from $69 billion.

Buoyed by strong oil prices, Saudi Arabia announced a record budget of SR690 billion for 2012 and analysts expect actual spending to end the year much higher.


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