(Bloomberg) -- Several oil traders in Saudi Aramco’s Houston office staged a brief walkout last week after receiving smaller bonuses than expected, according to people familiar with the matter. 

While only a handful of people walked off the job, discontent about trader pay is roiling the company’s Houston crude desk, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing internal matters. 

The dispute stems back to Aramco’s acquisition of Motiva Trading last year. At the time, traders were told their compensation would not change materially under the new ownership, said the people. But when bonuses paid out last month some traders received far less than they expected, the people added.

Aramco, which has been expanding its trading presence, declined to comment.

Bonuses have been a key point of contention for traders at integrated oil companies, such as Exxon Mobil Corp., that use trading as a way to bolster profits around the assets they own. Aramco Trading Americas, based in Houston, was set up last year to handle buying and selling for the company’s oil-refining business. 

READ: Exxon to Cut Trader Salaries in Latest Overhaul to Pay Structure

Merchant traders such as Vitol and Trafigura, by contrast, require traders to take on much higher risk and offer them a significant percentage of their book as a bonus. 

Aramco Trading Americas is the sole supplier and ‘offtaker’ of Motiva Enterprises, which owns one of North America’s largest refineries with a crude refining capacity of 630,000 barrels a day, producing consumer and commercial grade fuels and base oils. 

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.