(Bloomberg) — Saudi Aramco reshuffled its senior management and created a division focused on “portfolio optimization,” as the world’s biggest oil producer adapts to low crude prices and seeks new ways to raise cash.
The Saudi state energy company appointed senior vice president Abdulaziz Al Gudaimi to lead a new Corporate Development team that will “assess existing assets” and boost access to “growth markets,” it said in a statement on Sunday. He will report to Chief Executive Officer Amin Nasser and start on Sept. 13.
“The organization will support rapid and effective decision-making on the company’s portfolio,” Aramco said.
Aramco also named Nasir Al Naimi as acting head of the upstream business — the exploration and production arm — while Mohammed Al Qahtani will take over the downstream unit, according to people familiar with the situation, who asked not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak to media. The downstream business involves refining, chemicals, pipelines and fuel retailing, and was previously led by Al Gudaimi.
Aramo is adjusting to weaker energy prices as the coronavirus pandemic hammers the global economy, with Brent crude having fallen 33% this year to around $44 a barrel. The company is slashing investment so it can fulfill its pledge to pay a $75 billion dividend in 2020, even as its debt surges. Most of the dividend goes to the Saudi state, which needs the funds as it faces a major revenue squeeze.
Read more: Saudi Aramco’s $75 Billion Ambition Needs Help From Oil or Bonds
Earlier this year, Aramco hired advisers for a potential multi-billion dollar sale of a stake in its pipeline business. And Chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan said in February there were non-core assets that could be monetized.
In another sign of Aramco’s changing priorities, it suspended plans for a $10-billion refinery in China, Bloomberg reported last week. The project was unveiled with great fanfare last year.
Aramco didn’t comment on the appointments to the upstream and downstream businesses. The company’s shares have dropped 3.3% in Riyadh this year. That’s far less than other major energy firms such as Royal Dutch Shell Plc, which has fallen 52%, and Exxon Mobil Corp., down 41%, partly because of Aramco’s dividend promise.