Ahoy, Somali Pirates,
Well, someone ate their Wheaties yesterday morning, eh? Word on the street is that you've hijacked yet another ship. This time, an oil tanker. But not just any ol' oil tanker, no. This one holds 2,000,000 barrels of crude oil worth roughly $112,000,000.
Also, this one belongs to Saudi Aramco.
Now, maybe I'm just unusually paranoid about trifling with mysterious corporate juggernauts after seeing Quantum of Solace last night, but I'm a bit concerned that you've bitten off more than you can chew here. I mean, really, you thought you'd hijack $112,000,000 worth of product from the crown prince of oil companies and walk away unscathed, with a handsome booty to boot? Really? Really?
See, Saudi Aramco has a reputation to protect here. As the world's largest oil company, it can't afford to be flexed on by a group of two-bit pirates. Further, while Saudi Arabia can't go off half-cocked, let's recall that this is a national oil company you're messing with, not some weak-kneed public firm like ExxonMobil
Unlike those puny publicly traded peers, Saudi Aramco doesn't have a roster of shareholders that includes university endowments and teachers' unions. Its owner, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, sports seven frigates with missile ranges up to 180 kilometers, four corvettes built by the U.S. Navy, attack boats, helicopters, and 1,200 marines.
Frankly, if it weren't for the fact that you've got a fortune of black gold under your feet, I wouldn't have been shocked to see you go down in a literal blaze of glory.
Of course, it isn't like you're without leverage here. After all, you do have around two dozen hostages from varied nationalities, not to mention that you've got a fully-loaded Saudi freighter coasting towards the pirate haven of Eyl. It is entirely possible that the Saudis could negotiate with you. And given the other option (one that involves Keyser Söze-style negotiation tactics), you'd better hope this is the route they choose.
Of course, there's always a third option, which is that they call your bluff. What would you do with 2,000,000 barrels of oil, anyway? Talk about an illiquid liquid. Unless you've got a few thousand miles of steel pipe or a couple million barrels lying around, you're probably stuck with something folks call a "stranded resource." Throw in Dennis Hopper, and we're looking at a scene straight out of Waterworld.
Anyway, don't go killing those hostages. Doing so makes it open season for bringing down the hammer on you. Plus, given that the hostages come from a range of countries, you'd risk an onslaught of undesirable attention from a host of very irked countries. Dare I say it, this brazen, foolish theft of yours might be the tipping point on the international community deciding that they're no longer going to put up with your playing pirate anymore.
One way or the other, I'm afraid some of your boys will end up walking the plank for this one. In a way, I hate to say it. After all, I do admire your gusto.
Joe "Jolly Roger" Magyer
Joe Magyer owns no shares of any companies mentioned in this article. Joe's friend Brandy was born on National Talk Like a Pirate Day. Total is an Income Investor recommendation. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.