Saudi Aramco has confirmed that it was studying plans to issue Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) in a partial privatization bid of the world’s largest oil company, reported Reuters. A statement issued by the company said that options included the listing “of an appropriate percentage of the company’s shares and/or the listing of a bundle (of) its downstream subsidiaries”.
Previously, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had said that selling shares in Aramco was part of the Saudi government’s privatization drive to raise money in an era of cheap oil. He also stated that such a move would help promote transparency and counter corruption, adding that it was in the interest of both the Saudi market and Aramco. A decision will probably be taken in the next few months.
Saudi Aramco controls 261b in oil reserves, ten times more than ExxonMobil, with a market value of $319b, informed Bloomberg. With IPOs, Aramco may multiply its market value to as much as $2.5t, according to some estimates. Some analysts perceive the move as ‘an epochal change in the oil industry.’ Bloomberg report added that opening Aramco up to investors would be the most dramatic change in the kingdom’s economic policy since it started nationalization in the 1970.
According to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s official quoted by CNBC, Aramco’s IPOs will have no immediate implications for the global oil market, although they may impact the forward price of crude oil. The share sale will impact the Saudi currency. The move is perceived as unexpected given Saudi’s foreign exchange reserves of over $6b, which means that the country does not need to raise its capital.
In the latest developments, JP Morgan Chase, HSBC, and Deutsche Bank were prime candidates for preparing the IPO, having arranged loans for Aramco in the past worth billions of dollars, according to Construction Week.
Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest crude exporter and controls more than a tenth of the global oil market.