Oct 5, 2018

Saudi crown prince insists the Aramco IPO is still alive

Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo by Nicolas Asfouri/Getty Images.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said delayed IPO plans for state oil giant Aramco will go forward in late 2020 or early 2021, according to a new interview with Bloomberg.

Why it matters: The massive listing — initially slated for late 2018 — is designed to raise tens of billions of dollars to fund the kingdom's economic diversification plans. But it's been repeatedly pushed back, and a few weeks ago looked dead, or at least in a deep freeze.

  • "Everyone heard about the rumors of Saudi Arabia canceling the IPO of Aramco, delaying that, and that this is delaying Vision 2030," bin Salman told Bloomberg. "This is not right."

Yes, but: There's reason for skepticism, as this isn't the first time the Saudis have brushed off reports of IPO delays, or if they have enough appetite for the type of transparency that would come with an Aramco IPO.

And there's still the challenge of meeting bin Salman's hoped-for $2 trillion valuation, which several analysts doubt. Saudi officials also have not made key decisions, such as the stock exchange or exchanges on which Aramco shares would be listed.

The bottom line: MBS said the multi-year delay stems from plans to first have Aramco obtain a controlling stake in Sabic, the kingdom's petrochemicals giant. According to Bloomberg, he said that after the Sabic deal is done in 2019, a year will be needed before the IPO.

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