Saudi Aramco starts IPO on Tadawul Exchange

Wednesday, 06 Nov, 2019

The state-owned company however said there was no decision yet on the second part of the initial public offering (IPO) to list on an worldwide stock market, raising doubts that this much-anticipated step will ever happen.

Despite investor interest in the IPO, Aramco will still need money from the wealthiest Saudi families, many of whom were targeted in the 2017 campaign against corruption, which saw Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton Hotel turned into a prison for royal elites accused by the government of corruption.

The IPO is created to turbocharge Prince Mohammed's ambitious economic reform agenda by raising billions to build non-energy industries and diversify revenue streams.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. published a 118-page report without offering a valuation, but called Aramco the first "mega-major" oil company.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants to diversify the Saudi economy away from oil. It could set a new record if the company's ambitious valuation is achieved. This is a blow for London, which was among those vying to list the oil company, but may have been knocked out of the race due to political uncertainty around Brexit. The Saudi Arabian authorities has been pegging Saudi Aramco's value at $2 trln.

Al-Falih was reportedly fired for his intransigence on the IPO.

In addition to already announced changes in royalty payments, the government has also exempted condensate - a light oil produced in conjunction with natural gas - from the tax until 2033.

The IPO has been long-awaited, with Saudi officials valuing the company at $US2 trillion.

The IPO as a tool for helping Aramco become more like an International Olympic Committee stands in contrast with Al-Falih's resistance to the IPO, despite his desire to change the company.

"The biggest question is would the IPO go ahead as planned with two earlier failed attempts", says Dr. Nafis Alam, an adjunct professor of finance at the department of business management at the Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology in Surabaya, Indonesia, and a research affiliate with the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance. Global shareholders will increase accountability and reduce the risk of mission creep that we saw in the early part of this decade when the Kingdom's leaders had Aramco building stadiums. The company said it quickly restored output and never missed any customer orders, but the incident highlighted its vulnerability to regional military threats. Both MbS and the banks have been unwilling to move on this.

"Demand growth is slowing, while supply is really not a problem".

While Aramco did not specify the time frame or how much of the total company it would be selling, according to verified sources, the company could possibly offer 1-2 percent of its shares on the regional bourse, raising somewhere between $20 billion - $40 billion in the process.

Randolph Bell is director of the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center.