Saudi Arabia formally starts IPO of state-run oil firm


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Saudi Arabia formally started its long-anticipated initial public offering of its state-run oil giant Saudi Aramco on Sunday, which will see a sliver of the firm offered on a local stock exchange in hopes of raising billions of dollars for the kingdom.

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An announcement from the kingdom’s Capital Market Authority serves as a starting gun for an IPO promised by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman since 2016.

Initial plans call for the firm’s shares to be traded on Riyadh’s Tadawul stock exchange, then to later put other shares on a foreign exchange.

Prince Mohammed hopes for a very-optimistic $2 trillion valuation for Aramco, which produces 10 million barrels of crude oil a day and provides some 10% of global demand. That would raise the $100 billion he needs for his ambitious redevelopment plans for a Saudi Arabia hoping for new jobs, as unemployment stands at over 10%.

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However, economic worries, the trade war between China and the U.S. and increased crude oil production by the U.S. has depressed energy prices. A Sept. 14 attack on the heart of Aramco already spooked some investors, with one ratings company already downgrading the oil giant.

The announcement by the Capital Market Authority offered no timeline for the IPO.

“The Capital Market Authority board has issued its resolution approving the Saudi Arabian Oil Co. application for the registration and offering of part of its shares,” the authority said in its statement. “The company’s prospectus will be published prior to the start of the subscription period.”

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The Saudi-owned satellite channel Al-Arabiya reported last week, citing anonymous sources, that pricing for the stock will begin Nov. 17. A final price for the stock will be set Dec. 4, with shares then beginning to be traded on the Tadawul on Dec. 11, the channel reported. The channel is believed to have close links to the kingdom’s Al Saud royal family.