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Saudi Arabia denies calling off Aramco IPO

Saudi Arabia denies calling off Aramco IPO
The timing of Aramco’s share sale is to rely on “multiple factors”
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Riyadh – Mubasher: Saudi Arabia on Thursday denied reports that the oil-rich kingdom has backtracked on its plan to float a stake in state-run Aramco on stock exchanges.

“The government remains committed to the initial public offering (IPO) of Saudi Aramco at a time of its own choosing when conditions are optimum,” Khalid al-Falih, the Saudi minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources said in a statement.

The timing of Aramco’s share sale is to rely on “multiple factors”, including a downstream takeover which the world’s largest oil producer will seek to close in the coming few months and favorable market conditions, al-Falih, who doubles as chairman of Saudi Aramco, added.

In July, Saudi Arabian Oil Co, known globally as Saudi Aramco, announced starting negotiations with the Public Investment Fund (PIF) to purchase a strategic stake in the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC).

Al-Falih's comments come after reports that the listing of Saudi Aramco may be suspended.

On Wednesday, Sources told Reuters that the IPO, both the local and international listings, has been cancelled as Aramco refocuses on acquiring a stake in SABIC.

“The decision to call off the IPO was taken some time ago, but no-one can disclose this, so statements are gradually going that way - first delay then calling off,” an informed Saudi source, familiar with IPO plans, told the London-based news agency.

Following those reports, sources with knowledge of the matter had told CNBC's David Faber that Saudi powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “still wants to take Aramco public at some point in the future.”

Aramco listing becomes “less urgent” now because oil prices have increased again over $70 per barrel (pb), alleviating pressure on Saudi finances, the sources added.

In January 2016, the Saudi crown prince first made the plans public, which had been billed globally as the largest IPO in history.

Oil giant Aramco’s IPO is the centrepiece of the crown prince’s “Vision 2030” reform plan, intended to diversify the kingdom’s economy and invest more heavily in infrastructure.

The Saudi government hopes to attract a $2 trillion valuation for Aramco, though some analysts have estimated its value at half that amount.

For its part, Aramco “has completed its internal programme for IPO preparedness,” al-Falih said in his Thursday statement.

He further noted that bylaws had been amended, and the state-owned oil giant has been converted to a joint stock firm as it seeks to ensure that its internal financial reporting is in line 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.