Dec 6, 2019 - Economy

Saudi Aramco's IPO is huge and limited at the same time

Illustration of a gas pump with a green check mark on it

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

There's a split-screen effect with the Saudi Aramco IPO: it's simultaneously the largest ever and an event that's less consequential than initially envisioned.

Driving the news: The company yesterday said shares would be priced at 32 riyals, or $8.53, per share on the country's domestic exchange, representing a $1.7 trillion valuation.

  • They're initially selling 3 billion shares, a 1.5% slice, which means a $25.6 billion offering that edges out the 2014 IPO of the Chinese conglomerate Alibaba for the record.

Why it matters: That's a lot of money that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) hopes to steer toward the kingdom's efforts at economic diversification.

  • Trading begins this month, the culmination of the long-planned, often delayed effort.

But, but, but: It's all a far cry from MBS' earlier vision of a 5% float of the world's largest oil-producing company, with a higher $2 trillion valuation.

  • Plans for a listing on an international exchange seem to be on hold at best.

The big picture: Bloomberg notes that for MBS, getting the sale across the finish line "could help get his ambitious plan to overhaul the economy back on track."

  • "It’s been derailed by problems at home, including the backlash against his purge of the elite, and abroad by the outrage over the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and the war in Yemen," they report.

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