Bahrain may transfer some of its oil and natural gas assets into a proposed state-run fund in which it could sell shares to investors, as the smallest Gulf Arab country seeks to balance its budget.
The Ministers of Finance of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the State of Kuwait…952 | the publication reaches you by | Bahrain News
It’s still deciding which assets to put into the proposed fund and how to value them, he said.
A slump in crude prices since 2014 has prodded oil-rich states in the Persian Gulf to take unprecedented steps to open up to foreign investors to try to boost state coffers. Neighboring Saudi Arabia raised nearly $30 billion from the initial public offering of Aramco in December, while Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. has raised funds by bringing in partners for its refining unit and drilling business.
Bahrain, where oil and gas are also central to the economy, wants to balance its budget by 2022. Its deficit ballooned to 13% of gross domestic product in 2015, though it has improved, narrowing in 2019 to 4.7% of economic output from 6.3% a year earlier, the Finance Ministry said last month.
The proposed fund and the sale of a stake in it would serve as “a channel for private investors to come in, which they haven’t really done in the oil and gas sector in Bahrain,” Al Khalifa said.
Bahrain, with the smallest economy among the six members of the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council, has struggled as crude prices tumbled by more than half since June 2014. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait together pledged $10 billion in financial support for Bahrain in 2018.
The government is monitoring test wells for oil production at the Khaleej Al Bahrain shale oil and gas deposit discovered in 2018, while gas is in early development there, Al Khalifa said. The ministry plans to organize a roadshow later this year to invite international oil companies to sign deals to produce at three new offshore gas blocks, he added.
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