Abu Dhabi (AFP) Saudi energy giant Aramco is ready for a two-stage IPO but the timing is up to the government, its chief executive said Tuesday, flagging a possible foreign listing as part of the offering.
Aramco is “ready” for the giant stock market debut but the timing is a “government decision”, Amin Nasser told reporters on the sidelines of the World Energy Congress.
“One of the primary listings is going to be local but we are also ready for listing outside.”
Nasser’s remark came after the Wall Street Journal reported last week that Aramco was considering a domestic debut and a subsequent international listing — possibly in Tokyo.
Aramco has said it plans to float around five percent of the state-owned company in 2020 or 2021 in what could potentially be the world’s biggest stock sale.
The planned IPO forms the cornerstone of a reform programme envisaged by the kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to wean the Saudi economy off its reliance on oil.
It aims to raise up to $100 billion based on a $2 trillion valuation of the company, but investors have long debated whether Aramco is really worth that much.
On Sunday, King Salman promoted one of his sons, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, to the pivotal role of energy minister, replacing veteran official Khalid al-Falih, as the top crude exporter accelerates preparations for the much-anticipated IPO.
The appointment of Prince Abdulaziz marks the first time a royal family member has been put in charge of the all-important energy ministry.
In his first comments since taking up the role, the minister on Monday endorsed oil supply cuts, saying in Abu Dhabi that they would benefit all producing nations amid an oversupplied market and sagging prices.
Crude prices are currently moving around levels of $60 a barrel, compared with more than $75 a year ago, but were given a boost Monday by the Saudi official’s comments.
– More reforms needed –
The OPEC petroleum exporters’ cartel and key independent producers are deliberating how to halt a slide in prices that has persisted despite previous cuts and US sanctions that have squeezed supply from Iran and Venezuela.
Abu Dhabi is also hosting this week a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) of the OPEC+ alliance for a supply cut deal reached last year.
The ministers will consider fresh reductions, even though analysts are doubtful such a move would succeed in bolstering crude prices which have been badly dented by the US-China trade war.
The Aramco listing is key to Saudi’s economic future. Its GDP grew by 2.4 percent last year but the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said growth would fall to 1.9 percent in 2019 due to substantial oil output cuts.
The IMF said Monday that the kingdom’s fiscal reforms, including a consumption tax and higher energy prices, have started to yield results but that more is needed to plug a chronic budget deficit.
The prospect of falling short of the $2 trillion valuation desired by Saudi rulers is widely considered the reason the IPO — previously scheduled for 2018 — has been delayed.
Earlier this month, Aramco said its first half net income for 2019 slipped nearly 12 percent to $46.9 billion on lower crude prices.
It was the first time the company has published half-year financial results and comes after Aramco opened its secretive accounts for the first time in April, revealing itself to be the world’s most profitable company.
If the foreign portion of the Aramco listing goes ahead in Tokyo, it would be a setback for London, New York and Hong Kong, which have all vied for a slice of the business.
Political uncertainty in Britain over its plan to exit the European Union and public protests in Hong Kong had diminished their prospects, the Journal cited Saudi officials and advisers as saying.