The Dynamics of the Revenue Maximisation–Market Share Trade-off – Saudi Arabia’s Oil Policy in the 2014–2015 Price Fall

This paper follows on from ‘Saudi Arabia’s Oil Policy: More than Meets the Eye?’ published in June 2015, which raised a set of fundamental questions in relation to the sharp drop in the oil price between June 2014 and January 2015, and OPEC’s decision, spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, not to cut output in response. We develop a simple analytical framework, which formalizes Saudi Arabia’s decision-making process relative to the fundamental revenue maximization-market share trade-off in the 2014-15 oil price fall. Using a simple game, we show that under uncertainty, it is always better off for the Kingdom to assume shale oil supply is elastic and not to cut output. But we also argue that as Saudi Arabia learns more about this new source of supply, its policy will adapt accordingly. The fact Saudi Arabia’s oil policy could change as the trade-off between revenue maximization and market share evolves, and as new information is transmitted to the market, will keep the market second-guessing. It will continue to shape market expectations and influence market outcomes.

Executive Summary

By: Bassam Fattouh , Rahmat Poudineh , Anupama Sen

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