Kuwait struggling with lower oil prices
By Ahmed Hagagy
KUWAIT, July 12 (Reuters) – Kuwait is considering privatizing its oil services sector, a senior finance ministry official said on Tuesday, although any plans would not include its production capability.
The finance ministry and state-run Kuwait Petroleum Corporation are studying which sectors and services may be privatised, Undersecretary Khalifa Hamada told a news conference.
Gulf governments are being forced to consider measures such as privatisations, cuts to subsidies and other state spending, and tapping debt markets, to help bridge budget shortfalls caused by lower oil prices.
Saudi Arabia has proposed the privatisation of state oil giant Saudi Aramco, with the government expected to offer less than five percent of its shares to international and local investors in what is expected to be the world’s largest initial share sale.
Any privatisation of state oil assets is a politically sensitive subject in Gulf states, as oil is the economic bedrock which supplies the revenues to provide the generous cradle-to-grave welfare state enjoyed by citizens.
Hamada said any privatisation plans in Kuwait would not include its oil production facilities. He did not specify a time frame for the process.
Kuwait is expected to post a budget deficit of 9.5 billion dinars in the 2016-2017 fiscal year and it plans to cover this through the issue of 5 billion dinars of international and domestic debt as well as drawing upon its reserves, Finance Minister Anas al-Saleh said on July 3.
Of the 3 billion dinars to be raised internationally, Hamada said this was being coordinated by both the ministry of finance and sovereign wealth fund the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA).
The issue would take place by the end of the year, with negotiations with external advisors to begin in September.
Kuwaiti investments in the United Kingdom are expected to be hit by the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, although the impact of Brexit is expected to be “short-term and not large”, Hamada said.
The KIA, through its London-based subsidiary Kuwait Investment Office, is understood to have substantial investments in the Britain, in particular in real estate and infrastructure. It was part of the consortium which bought London City Airport earlier this year.
“All our investments in Britain will have their value affected,” Hamada said. “This will be temporary and then after that will improve. Our investments are long-term and not short-term.”
Hamada said the impact is expected to be limited because of the diversification of the Kuwait’s investments in many countries, including the United States.
The KIA is one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds with about $592 billion under management, according to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, which tracks the industry.
($1 = 0.3020 Kuwaiti dinars) (Writing by Hadeel Al Sayegh; Editing by David French and William Hardy)