Saudi Arabia on Thursday denied reports that the kingdom has scrapped plans to list shares of state-owned energy giant Aramco on stock exchanges.
Khalid al-Falih, the Saudi minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources and chairman of Saudi Aramco, said in a statement on Thursday: “The Government remains committed to the IPO of Saudi Aramco at a time of its own choosing when conditions are optimum.”
“This timing will depend on multiple factors, including favorable market conditions, and a downstream acquisition which the Company will pursue in the next few months,” al-Falih said.
His comments follow reports that the listing of Saudi Aramco may be canceled.
Subsequent to those reports, sources familiar with the process had told CNBC’s David Faber that “the kingdom’s powerful crown prince still wants to take Aramco public at some point in the future.”
The IPO is now less urgent because oil prices have rebounded above $70 a barrel, relieving pressure on Saudi finances, the sources said.
The initial public offering would be the largest ever and lies at the center of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious plan to overhaul the Saudi economy. The Saudis hope to attract a $2 trillion valuation for Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, though some outside analysts have pegged its value at half that amount.
Crown Prince Mohammed first made the plans public in January 2016, when he was still the kingdom’s deputy crown prince.
The plan emerged during the depths of a crushing oil price downturn that sent crude futures from more than $100 a barrel to less than $30. The rout pushed Saudi Arabia’s budget into a deficit and ultimately forced the kingdom to coordinate production cuts among about two dozen oil-producing nations.
“The company, for its part, has completed its internal program for IPO preparedness,” al-Falih said in his Thursday statement, adding that bylaws had been amended, and the state oil giant has been converted to a joint stock company as Aramco tries to ensure that its internal financial reporting aligns with potential listing venue requirements.
“This is all positive progress on what is a complex process, preparing the company and the Kingdom for what will ultimately be a global landmark market offering of unprecedented quality and scale,” the statement said.
Big global exchanges compete for listing
Stock exchanges in New York, London and Hong Kong emerged as leading contenders to list Aramco shares. The crown prince reportedly favored listing on the New York Stock Exchange, but market watchers questioned whether Aramco, known for its secrecy, could meet the NYSE’s stringent transparency standards.
Amin Nasser, CEO of Aramco, told CNBC earlier this year that his company was prepared for a public offering in the second half of 2018, but was waiting for the government to choose an exchange. Indecision over the listing venue snarled the process, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year.
—CNBC’s Tom DiChristopher contributed to this report.
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