April 28, 2015 / 11:18 AM / 4 years ago

Asian oil demand strong, Saudi ready to supply more: Naimi

SINGAPORE/DUBAI (Reuters) - Oil demand in Asia is strong and Saudi Arabia is ready to supply any more crude needed, its oil minister said on Tuesday during a visit to China, as the world’s top crude exporter aims to maintain its market share.

Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi talks to journalists before a meeting of OPEC oil ministers at OPEC's headquarters in Vienna December 4, 2013. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi had told officials in Beijing the kingdom was ready to supply China with additional oil if required, state news agency SPA reported on Monday.

On Tuesday, he reiterated that message and said while a roughly 50 percent drop in global oil prices since June last year had helped growing economies in Asia “sudden rises or falls in the cost of oil are not welcome”.

“Asian demand for oil remains strong and we are ready to supply whatever is required. As the Asian population grows, and as the middle class expands, so the demand for energy will increase,” Naimi said in a speech in Beijing.

“Oil will retain its pre-eminent position and Saudi Arabia will remain the number one supplier. We should not lose sight of these facts and the importance of our ongoing relationship,” he said.

Naimi was the driving force behind the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ (OPEC) decision in November to keep output unchanged, refusing calls to cut production so as not to lose market share to rival producers.

The veteran minister has said Saudi Arabian output would probably remain about 10 million barrels of oil a day, a sign the kingdom has slowly started to claw back its market share.

Naimi’s visit to China follows an earlier trip to South Korea, suggesting that Riyadh was not waiting for a bigger market share to come its way, but was proactively managing the situation.

“Saudi Arabia is a consistent, stable and reliable supplier of quality oil. We are the most reliable supplier on earth. Quality and quantity is assured,” he said in Beijing.

“We have proved, over many years, to be a reliable partner for China as its energy demands have increased. We remain committed to this partnership, and to this friendship.”

He said Riyadh exports around one million barrels of oil per day to China.

Naimi also said Saudi Arabia seeks fair and stable oil prices that benefit producers and consumers, allowing global supply and demand to grow at a steady pace.

“For Saudi Arabia, it’s about a fair price. One that is fair for producers, consumers and industry,” he said. “It’s also about stability ... it’s in all our interests to ensure stable prices.”

Reporting by Florence Tan in Singapore and Rania El Gamal in Dubai; editing by David Clarke

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