Saudi looking for Al Naimi successor
London, December 11, 2010
Saudi Arabia is considering candidates to succeed long-standing oil minister Ali Al Naimi in a ministerial reshuffle that could happen in late February or early March next year, two Saudi officials familiar with the situation said.
Oil minister for the world's biggest crude exporter and de facto leader of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Al Naimi has been the most influential voice in global energy markets since his appointment in August 1995.
The 75-year-old has been asked by the Saudi Supreme Petroleum Council, chaired by King Abdullah, to nominate those he considers best-suited to replace him, the sources said.
One source said the nominations included Mohamed al-Saban and Abdullah al-Jumah.
Saban is long-time senior economic advisor to Al Naimi at the oil ministry and the Kingdom's top negotiator at U.N. climate talks.
Jumah was Al Naimi's successor as head of state oil company Saudi Aramco, a post he left in 2008. He joined the board of US drilling services company Halliburton in July.
There may be other nominations from other members of the Supreme Petroleum Council. Al Naimi also has scope to add a third candidacy. The final decision will rest with King Abdullah.
'In the end the decision is with the King. He alone will decide to make the change, the timing, and who it is,' said a Saudi official.
Asked by reporters at an Opec meeting in Quito whether he planned to retire, Al Naimi replied laughing: 'Ministers don't retire.'
While a Saudi cabinet reshuffle is thought possible in late February or early March, the timing and scope of any changes could be affected by King Abdullah's health. The elderly monarch is recovering from spinal surgery in New York.
'I think there will be Saudi cabinet changes as soon as the first quarter of 2011. Ali Al Naimi is someone who has been looking to retire for some time,' said Edward Morse, Managing Director at Credit Suisse and a long-time observer of Saudi oil policy.
'For the time being it is hard to envisage any change in Saudi Arabia's petroleum policy, in respect to its price targets or other areas like trading, as long as Al Naimi is still in place,” he added.
Al Naimi's successor will be only the fifth oil minister in Saudi history following Abdullah al-Tariki (1960-1962), Ahmed Zaki Yamani (1962-1986) and Hisham Nazer (1986-1995). – Reuters