Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Saudi Aramco's troubled IPO plan is increasingly looking dead, or at least in a deep freeze, but the Saudis pushed back against those reports late last night.

Driving the news: Reuters, citing "four senior industry sources," reported yesterday that Saudi Arabia had called off the plan to sell about 5% of the company. And a source familiar with the company's work with outside advisers and banks told me roughly the same thing after their story hit.

Why it matters: The kingdom had hoped to raise tens of billions of dollars through the IPO to help fund initiatives to diversify its oil-dependent economy away from crude oil sales.

But the plan to sell about 5% of the company has been beset with delays, indecision about an international listing venue, and related questions about the Saudis' appetite for the transparency that comes with going public.

  • Plus, multiple analysts believe the company would not achieve the kingdom's hoped-for $2 trillion valuation.

Yes, but: Khalid Al-Falih, the Saudi energy minister, pushed back againstyesterday's obits for the plan. "The Government remains committed to the IPO of Saudi Aramco at a time of its own choosing when conditions are optimum," he said.

  • Reality check: Absent from his lengthy statement is even a rough timeframe for the IPO.

One big question, via Axios' Dan Primack: The IPO's seeming demise, or at least deep freeze, could be good or bad news for the prospect of the Saudis bankrolling CEO Elon Musk's plan to take Tesla private.

  • The bullish case for Tesla: The Saudis think they can diversify their economy without the IPO, and Tesla could be one avenue.
  • The bearish case for Tesla: Without cash from the IPO, there's less money to spread around.

The intrigue: The fate of the IPO appears to be bound up in a separate transaction — Aramco's potential purchase of a controlling stake in the petrochemical firm Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) from the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund.

  • Al-Falih's statement obliquely references this, noting the IPO timing will be affected by a "downstream acquisition which the Company will pursue in the next few months."
  • Bloomberg writes that could be a roughly $70 billion deal. "That will replace at least some of the money the Public Investment Fund had been expected to receive from the Aramco IPO," they report.

What they're saying:

  • Randy Bell, director of the Atlantic Council's Global Energy Center, tells Axios that the delay is a good development: "A delay suggests that Saudi leadership recognizes the challenge and is going to wait until they get it right to proceed. That should give the investor community more confidence in the country over the long run."
  • Jim Krane of Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy says that while the rationale behind the IPO — raising money to diversify the economy — remains sound, the plan itself turned out to be "flawed": "Aramco executives worried that the company's vaunted autonomy and long-term planning would be sacrificed to meet short-term demands of shareholders."

Go deeper: I wrote about the rationale for pouring resources into SABIC here.

Go deeper

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden readies massive shifts in policy for his first days in office.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.
  6. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dave Lawler, author of World
6 hours ago - World

Alexey Navalny detained after landing back in Moscow

Navalny and his wife shortly before he was detained. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was detained upon his return to Moscow on Sunday, which came five months after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. He returned despite being warned that he would be arrested.

The latest: Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.

Mike Allen, author of AM
8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.