Saudi Arabia has removed its energy minister from the chairmanship of state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco as it prepares to float the company as soon as next year.
Khalid Al-Falih will step down from the position, as the company tries to avoid too many conflicts of interest as it hits the public markets for the first time, Bloomberg reported, citing sources.
However the news may also mark a repudiation of Al-Falih’s policies.
The energy minister reportedly disagrees with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who is keen to bring the company’s float to the New York exchange.
The board of Aramco, including Al-Falih, is worried the company would open itself up to litigation in the US if it lists there.
US terror laws allow victims of attacks, and their families, to sue foreign countries. The board worries that families of those who died on 9/11 could take the chance to take the Saudis to court.
“All this shows that in Saudi Arabia there has been some dissatisfaction at the highest levels on how things have been going,” Olivier Jakob at consultant Petromatrix in Switzerland told Bloomberg.
The energy minister has tried for months to get on top of falling oil prices, which have been put under pressure by rising US production.
Prices rose earlier this year as Saudi-led oil cartel Opec slashed production. However, Brent crude failed to reach October’s heady $82 per barrel, peaking at under $72 in April.
Last week the Wall Street Journal, citing sources, reported that Aramco is looking primarily at a dual listing between the Saudi exchange and Tokyo, shunning London and Hong Kong amid political uncertainty.
Al-Falih will be replaced by the head of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund Yasir Al-Rumayyan, a Bin Salman ally who has sat on the board of Aramco since 2016.
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The news comes after Al-Falih on Friday lost the industry and mineral resources brief, as those areas were broken off from the Energy Ministry in to a brand new department.
The department, and therefore Al-Falih, oversaw more than half of the Saudi economy before the split.