Saudi Arabia's King Salman named his son as energy minister after veteran official Khalid al-Falih was sacked in a major shakeup as the Opec kingpin reels from low oil prices, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
The appointment of Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, half brother to de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, comes as Saudi Arabia prepares for a much-awaited stock listing of state-owned oil giant Aramco.
"Khalid al-Falih has been removed from his position," said SPA, citing a royal decree. "His royal highness Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman is appointed minister of energy."
The Kingdom also replaced the deputy energy minister, SPA added. Since his appointment as oil minister in 2016, Falih has been the face of Saudi energy policy but the veteran technocrat had seen his portfolio shrink in recent weeks.
His ouster comes just days after he was removed as chairman of Aramco, as the company prepares for a much-touted initial public offering (IPO). He was replaced in that post by Yasir al-Rumayyan, governor of the Kingdom's vast Public Investment Fund.
Falih's powers were diminished last month when the world's top oil exporter announced the creation of a new ministry of industry and mineral resources, separating it from his energy ministry.
It was widely speculated there was dissatisfaction with Falih within the top levels of government over the low price of oil ahead of the Aramco IPO, even as the Kingdom has continued to cut output to balance global demand.
Opec To Review Policy
Opec and its allies are scheduled to meet in Abu Dhabi on September 12 to review their strategy on limiting production to tackle a global supply glut and shore up prices.
It was unclear whether there would be a change in Saudi policy under Prince Abdulaziz, who joined the oil ministry in the 1980s and has served in a variety of senior positions.
"Prince Abdulaziz has been in the oil ministry for decades... He joined the oil ministry in the late 1980s and worked closely with the three previous oil ministers," said Ali Shihabi, founder of the now-shuttered pro-Saudi think-tank Arabia Foundation.
"(He) has attended virtually every Opec meeting since then so brings a wealth of institutional experience," Shihabi, added.
"The priority remains removing the lingering threat of another crude price swoon by preventing stock builds," said Bob McNally, president of Rapidan Energy Advisors LLC.
Saudi Arabia has cut production to less than 10 million barrels per day as part of its agreement with the Opec to limit output. Al-Falih helped broker the deal that brought other producers like Russia into the effort to balance markets by curbing production.