Flag of the United Arab Emirates
Flag of the United Arab Emirates - 
Listen To The Story


KAI RYSSDAL: Officials in Dubai have come up with a new definition of the phrase "just in the nick o' time." They say a fresh oil field has been discovered right offshore. That will surely come in handy as the sheikdom tries to figure out how to repay those billions of dollars that it owes.

Our senior business correspondent Bob Moon points out though, that some experts found the timing of the announcement more than a little curious.

Bob Moon: For starters, Dubai is conspicuously holding off on doing the numbers.

Samuel Ciszuk: The information has been very sparsely worded. It's been announced as a discovery, which is promising for Dubai, but no numbers -- no reserve numbers, no numbers of the possible production.

Samuel Ciszuk is Middle East energy analyst at IHS Global Insight in London. He says the lack of detail makes it impossible to know how much the find might relieve Dubai's financial woes. The new-found oil is said to be in an area where production as already been shrinking fast. So Ciszuk figures it won't have much more relative impact than finding some pocket change tucked away in a drawer.

Ciszuk: Occasionally, you might hit something, you know, which you didn't really think was there -- you know, either as a sort of extension to the geological reservoir. But, the likelihood of a major find I think, you know, if it really was large, you know, we probably would have heard some numbers.

Dubai is a member of the United Arab Emirates, which is the world's third biggest oil exporter. But nearly all the nation's reserves are held by the federal capital, Abu Dhabi; Dubai's own reserves are just a tiny part of its economy.

Christopher Davidson is an expert on Dubai at Britain's Durham University. He suggests it's no coincidence the announcement came during a federal cabinet meeting in Abu Dhabi.

Christopher Davidson: Of course, the ruler of Dubai needs to assure creditors, including Abu Dhabi, that Dubai does have some money on the way very soon. The ruler's office were very quick to get this news out at the time that Dubai World, the struggling, seemingly state-backed company, is having to sell off assets.

Raising serious doubts, he contends, that this might be any major new addition to the world's oil supplies.

I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.