(Bloomberg) -- OPEC+ plans to hold its first in-person meeting next week since March 2020 as the cartel weighs cutting oil production to stem a recent slump in prices.
The 23-nation alliance, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, is scheduled to meet on Wednesday at its headquarters in Vienna, according to a statement from OPEC’s secretariat. Not all countries may be able to send representatives because of the short notice, delegates said privately.
The group has been meeting online on a monthly basis and wasn’t expected to arrange an in-person gathering until at least the end of this year.
Brent crude soared above $125 a barrel following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. It’s since dropped to $85 as central banks raise interest rates to fight inflation and economies from the US to China slow, tempering the spectacular windfall enjoyed by the Saudis and their partners.
Banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co. said OPEC+ may need to lower output by least 500,000 barrels a day to stabilize prices. Helima Croft, chief commodities strategist at RBC Capital Markets LLC, has said the group may opt for a cut twice that large.
“I suspect that they might not want to go in person for a minor move,” Croft said.
The news comes a day after the US sanctioned Alexander Novak, Russia’s deputy prime minister and point-person for OPEC+, following Moscow’s annexation of four regions in Ukraine. The EU is expected to impose new sanctions of its own, though it’s unclear if they’ll target Russian individuals.
“The named person is currently not designated under EU sanctions,” a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry said when asked if Austria would be comfortable for a senior Russian official to visit Vienna.
OPEC enjoys diplomatic status in the Austrian capital, but that wouldn’t apply to Russia because it’s a member of the wide, more informal OPEC+ group.
The 13-nation Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries entered into a partnership with 10 other major producers in 2016, including Russia. Saudi Arabia is keen to preserve that relationship, which it sees as crucial to stabilizing oil markets, despite pressure from the US and Europe for Russia to be isolated because of its invasion.
OPEC+ underscored its readiness to steady the market with a symbolic reduction at a previous meeting on Sept 5. Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman promised the same day to remain “preemptive and pro-active” in addressing extreme price volatility.
(Adds comment from Austrian government.)
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