Saudi Arabia mulls IPO of oil producer Aramco - possibly the world's most valuable company

SAUDI-FRANCE-DIPLOMACY
Muhammad bin Salman is "enthusiastic" about the step (Source: Getty)

Saudi Arabia is mulling an IPO of state owned oil producer Saudi Aramco, possibly the world's most valuable company.

Muhammad bin Salman, the kingdom’s deputy crown prince and defence minister, has said the decision about listing shares will be made in the next few months. He has held two high-level meetings about the move, the Economist reports.

Options on the table include listing some of Aramco's petrochemical and other “downstream” firms, as well as selling shares in the parent company, which includes the core business of producing crude.

It is thought that around five per cent of the company would be floated initially, though it could rise over time. The listing is expected to take place in Riyadh.

“Personally I’m enthusiastic about this step,” bin Salman said in his first on-record interview. “I believe it is in the interest of the Saudi market, and it is in the interest of Aramco.”

The move comes as Saudi Arabia struggles against sliding oil prices - which today saw Brent crude drop below $33, and increasing tension with Iran following the execution of Saudi cleric Nimr Baqr al-Nimr earlier this month.

Officials say the company is worth "trillions of dollars" - though it reveals no information on revenues.

London has emerged as a favourite among some investors for the listing. Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank, told City A.M.: “London makes sense considering its heavy presence in the energy sector.”

Saudi Arabia may want to list the company to stave off the economically damaging effects of the fall in oil price.

Abhishek Deshpande, lead oil analyst at Natixis, told City A.M.: “If they want more transparency London’s ideal. It will be a strong contender.”

Alastair McCraig, market analyst at IG, said: “London would be the most likely destination on a global basis.”

Saudi Aramco has oil reserves of 261bn barrels, 10 times more than Exxon Mobil.

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