Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says the delayed plan for an initial public offering (IPO) of shares in Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil exporter and a significant chemicals producer, will go ahead by 2021. In an interview with Bloomberg last week, he also insisted that the whole company is worth $2 trillion or more. The prince’s statement is in contrast to earlier reports which said that plans to list Aramco had been indefinitely postponed .
“I believe late 2020, early 2021,” he told Bloomberg, discussing the timing of the proposed IPO. “The investor will decide the price on the day. I believe it will be above $2 trillion. Because it will be huge.” He said the IPO was “100% ” in the nation’s interest. In August, responding to rumors that the IPO had been shelved, Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said that Saudi Arabia would go ahead with the project “at a time of its own choosing when conditions are optimum.”
The prince said the delay to the IPO had its origins in mid-2017, when it became clear that Aramco needed a big push into petrochemicals. He said it would have been unfair to go ahead with the listing only to surprise investors soon after with a big deal in chemicals. Preparations for the IPO, originally expected in 2018, began slowing earlier this year and in mid-June, participating banks were invited to present proposals for Aramco to acquire most or all of the PIF’s 70% stake in SABIC for up to $70 billion. Prince Mohammed said the deal between Aramco and SABIC, which he hopes will close next year, was key for the future of the country’s energy industry. “If we want to have a really strong future for Aramco after 20, 30, 40 years from today, Aramco has to invest a lot in downstream because we know that the new demand for oil 20 years from now will be from petrochemicals,” he told Bloomberg.
If Aramco had developed a separate petrochemical business, SABIC would have definitely suffered, Prince Mohammed said, partly because Aramco provides SABIC with the bulk of the feedstock it processes into chemicals.
Prince Mohammed said that the Saudi government will keep the shares of Aramco after the IPO, rather than transfer them into the PIF as was originally planned. Instead, the PIF will receive $70 billion from the sale of its stake in SABIC, plus the $100 billion that country hopes to raise from floating a 5% stake in Aramco.
By: Natasha Alperowicz
Source: Chemical Week
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