Saudi Arabia kick-starts IPO of world’s largest oil company | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 04, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 04, 2019

Saudi Arabia kick-starts IPO of world’s largest oil company

Saudi Arabia’s state oil company kick-started its initial public offering (IPO) on Sunday, announcing its intention to list on the domestic bourse as the kingdom seeks to diversify and create the world’s most valuable listed company.

Aramco did not give a time frame or say how much of the company it would sell, but sources have told Reuters the oil company could offer 1 percent-2 percent of its shares on the local bourse, raising as much as $20 billion-$40 billion.

Aramco said the IPO would be split into two tranches: one each for institutional and individual investors. The percentage of shares to be sold and the purchase price would be determined after the book-building period, it added in a statement.

Confirmation of the share sale in Saudi Arabian Oil Co, or Aramco, as the oil giant is usually known, comes about seven weeks after crippling attacks on its oil facilities, underlining Saudi Arabia’s determination to push on with the listing regardless. Aramco said it does not expect the Sept. 14 attack on its oil plants will have a material impact on its business, operations and financial condition.

The attacks targeted the Abqaiq and Khurais plants at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, causing fires and damage and temporarily shutting down 5.7 million barrels per day (bpd) of production - more than 5 percent of global oil supply. The company did not specific any additional security measures.

The IPO of the world’s most profitable company is designed to turbocharge Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s economic reform agenda by raising billions to diversify the kingdom, whose dependency on oil was highlighted by the production impact of the September attacks.  

“It is a colossal public offering that could potentially generate more than 10 years’ worth of proceeds raised through IPOs in the country,” said Salah Shamma, head of investment, MENA, Franklin Templeton Emerging Markets Equity.

He said some local investors could be selling other shares in order to shift their investments to Aramco, but this could well be a case of “short-term pain for long-term gain.”

Aramco plans to release the IPO prospectus on Nov. 9, Chief Executive Amin Nasser told a news conference in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Aramco chairman Yasir al-Rumayyan told the news conference that the valuation for the company should be determined after the roadshow. At a valuation of $1.5 trillion, Aramco would still be worth at least 50 percent more than the world’s most valuable companies, Microsoft and Apple, which each have a market capitalisation of about $1 trillion.

But a 1 percent sale would raise “only” around $15 billion for Saudi coffers, less than the $25 billion generated by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba in its record-breaking IPO in 2014.

It would rank Aramco as the 11th biggest IPO of all time, Refinitiv data show.

A sale of 2 percent of Aramco shares at a $1.5 trillion valuation would make it the biggest IPO of all time, beating Alibaba’s.

The prospect of the world’s largest oil company selling a piece of itself has had Wall Street on tenterhooks since Prince Mohammed flagged it three years ago.

Aramco said in Sunday’s statement that it posted a net income of $68 billion during the nine-month period ending on September 30. Revenues and other income related to sales for the same period amounted to $244 billion, it added. To help get the deal done, Saudi Arabia is relying on easy credit for retail investors and hefty contributions from rich locals.

Aramco said the Saudi market regulator, which approved its application to list on Sunday, had issued an exemption for non-resident institutional foreign investors to subscribe.

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