Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, met in private with some of the world’s top commodity hedge funds in July, taking the unusual step of personally canvassing investor views on the state of the market.

In the past, Saudi Arabian officials have disparaged hedge funds as unhelpful speculators that undermined OPEC’s quest for market stability. Last month’s meetings, described by people familiar with the encounters, signal the world’s largest exporter has reassessed the role of financial investors in the global oil market.

Al-Falih met the oil investors and traders in London days before traveling to St. Petersburg where OPEC and non-OPEC ministers discussed the market, the same people said, asking not to be identified because the talks were private. Although Saudi officials have met in the past with hedge funds representatives, it’s the first time meetings involving the minister have been reported.

Al-Falih met Pierre Andurand, the founder of an eponymous fund with more than $1 billion in assets, and Jonathan Goldberg, the former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. trader who founded BBL Commodities LP, the people said. He also met with traders including Alex Beard, the head of oil at Glencore Plc, the world’s largest commodities house.

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