Aramco IPO in the hands of disgraced Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
The timing of the highly anticipated stock market debut of Saudi energy colossus Aramco will be dictated by de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's energy minister said Wednesday.
Aramco was expected to launch the first part of a two-stage IPO earlier in October, but the process has been delayed, reportedly due to the prince's dissatisfaction with the valuation of the firm, which had been hoped to reach $2 trillion.
The long-awaited initial public offering will now happen on 11 December on the Riyadh stock market, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television said on Tuesday.
Aramco did not confirm the report and Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman side-stepped the details when he spoke at a major investment conference in Riyadh where the listing has been a topic of discussion.
"I hate this time around to disappoint the media, because I'm not going to talk about OPEC or what we should do, and I'm not going to talk about the IPO," he said to laughs from the audience of policy-makers and top executives.
"It's going to come soon... but it will come at the right time with the right approach, and definitely with the right decision. And it will be a Saudi decision first and foremost, specifically Prince Mohammed's decision," he added.
Prince Abdulaziz is the half-brother of the crown prince, whose ambitious reform plans for the kingdom's economy largely rest on the anticipated $100 billion windfall from the Aramco listing.
After an initial listing on the domestic stock exchange, Aramco is believed to be planning to sell the rest of a planned tranche of five percent of the firm on an international bourse.
"The Saudis' current objective is to raise $100 billion through the IPO process, even if that means ultimately selling up to 10 percent of the company to outside investors," Energy Intelligence said in a report this week.
It cited sources as saying they expect the Saudis to settle on a valuation of $1.6 trillion to $1.7 trillion for the firm.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's efforts to diversify the country's economy have incldued opening up to tourism and loosening restrictions on women.
But the crown prince continues to face a strong backlash over his alleged role in the murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.