Saudi Aramco listed on the stock market, but no plans for foreign share listing

Saudi Aramco listed on the stock market, but no plans for foreign share listing
Aramco is the world’s most profitable company. It declared a net profit of $111.1 billion in 2018, which is higher than the profits of Apple, Google and Exxon Mobil combined.
3 min read
03 November, 2019
The IPO is part of the Kingdom's plan to diversify its economy. [Getty]
Saudi Arabia has begun the listing of its state-run oil company Aramco on the Riyadh stock exchange on Sunday.

"Today marks a significant milestone in the history of the company and important progress towards delivering Saudi Vision 2030, the kingdom's blueprint for sustained economic diversification and growth," Aramco chairman Yasir al-Rumayyan said.

The long-discussed proposal initially planned to have two components that included an offering to foreign investors. That has since been suspended however, with the chairman’s announcement that there are no plans for a foreign share listing, Reuters reported.

[Also read: 'Multi-billion-projects in the pipeline' at Saudi Arabia's Davos in the Desert after last year's boycott]

"For the (international) listing part, we will let you know in due course. So far it's only on Tadawul," Aramco chairman Yasir al-Rumayyan told a press conference, referring to the Saudi stock exchange.

After years of delays, Aramco was finally listed the stock market debut, saying it was a "significant milestone" in the history of the energy titan which supplies 10 percent of the world's oil.

It is unclear how much of the company Aramco is willing to sell, but reports in Reuters say that the oil company could sell between 1 and 2 percent, which would raise as much as $20-$40 billion.

The IPO of the world’s biggest oil company is the cornerstone of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s economic reform agenda that aims to raise billions by diversifying the economy of the Kingdom and reduce its dependency on oil.

Although bin Salman had put the valuation of the company at $2 trillion in 2016, bankers and company insiders say Aramco’s value is closer to $1.5 trillion.

Even at this valuation, it would still be worth at least 50 percent more than the world’s biggest companies such as Microsoft and Apple. It could become the world's biggest IPO depending on how much of the company it decides to sell.

Aramco was expected to launch the IPO in October, but the process has been delayed reportedly due to the crown prince's dissatisfaction with the valuation of the firm.

Destruction of the planet

However, the IPO is not without its critics and doubters. 

Aramco's entry into the stock market comes just weeks after attacks on its largest oil plant, which shut off around 5 percent of global oil supply, sending the market into a frenzy.

The attacks have raised questions about the vulnerability of Aramco’s facilities amid deepening regional tensions between the kingdom and regional-rival Iran.

"[The September] attacks raise the fear of future attacks in a very real way for equities investors," Ellen Wald, president of Transversal Consulting told CNBC.

"Those familiar with the company know that Aramco has been prepared for this for a very long time, but it likely is not something already priced into the opinions of the typical fund." 

Environmental groups have further slammed the move, saying privitisation of the energy giant would be contributing to "the destruction of the planet". They have criticised the role of the international banks that are involved, saying it would be the "biggest single infusion of capital into the fossil fuel industry" since the Paris Agreement on climate change was signed in 2015. 

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