Malaysia lobbies to enter Saudi Arabia oil business

Kuala Lumpur, Jan 31 | Updated: Feb 1 2006, 05:30am hrs
Malaysia signed business proposals worth more than $500 million with Saudi Arabia on Tuesday but had its eye on something bigger oil.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi asked King Abdullah, visiting Kuala Lumpur on an Asian tour, to give Malaysias oil firm Petronas a chance to work with Saudi Aramco, which oversees the worlds largest crude reserves and exports.

I would like to make special mention of our national petroleum corporation, Petronas, the Malaysian leader said at a lunch held by local businessmen for the king. This company has much international experience and is keen to expand its operations in Saudi Arabia. I know that they are open to any proposals from Saudi Aramco, the premier said. After years of keeping foreign oil firms off its turf, Saudi Arabias entry into the World Trade Organisation in December is slowly opening its protected but growing economy to the world. State-owned Saudi Aramco was originally formed out of foreign energy firms that found the first Saudi crude in the 1930s but had since become a monopoly.

Petronas is hoping that Kuala Lumpurs common faith with Riyadh will help it get a foothold in the Saudi energy stakes. The Fortune 500 company with a cash pile of more than $12 billion has so far ventured into more than 30 countries, including politically risky places such as Sudan and Myanmar, to boost Malaysias lagging crude and gas reserves.

We do have a very strong common bond in our Islamic faith, Prime Minister Abdullah said, underlining the fact in his speech. We should take take advantage of these strong ties. King Abdullah did not respond directly to the premiers push for Petronas. But he told the gathering: Our governments have done the legal framework to open up both countries...and its up to the businessmen.