Attracting Saudi Aramco IPO still ‘a focus’ for London exchange

LSE said operating profit for last year rose to £626 million. (Reuters)
Updated 02 March 2018
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Attracting Saudi Aramco IPO still ‘a focus’ for London exchange

LONDON: London Stock Exchange Group emerged from what was a troubling 2017 with a 47 percent profit jump despite turgid markets, helping to ease lingering concern over management upheaval and its aborted Deutsche Boerse merger.
The exchange also said that hosting an expected initial public offering of part of Saudi Aramco remains “a focus.”
The company has come under fire from activist investor TCI over the departure of CEO Xavier Rolet in the wake of the collapsed Deutsche Boerse deal but was able to offer a more upbeat message on Friday with full-year results buoyed by record volumes across multiple clearing services and company flotations that hit a three-year high.
Though interim chief David Warren ruled himself out as permanent CEO, the company said it had made “good progress” in its search from a “strong field of high-quality candidates.”
Without a permanent chief executive LSE could be more vulnerable to a potential takeover. TCI, which holds a 5.17 percent stake in LSE, has predicted a 15 billion pound ($20.7 billion) bid for the group from transatlantic rivals ICE and CME Group.
In a conference call with reporters, Warren declined to comment on takeover bids but said that LSE was confident in its standalone prospects.
“I have strong ambition ... to continue in this interim role as the search goes on. (Beyond that) I remain firmly committed to remaining as CFO,” he added.
Warren declined to comment on a timeline for any appointment and did not say whether LSE had spoken to TCI about candidates.
TCI had sought the removal of chairman Donald Brydon over the handling of Rolet’s departure. The former CEO stepped down in November after nearly a decade in the role, during which he transformed the company with a string of deals, lifting its market value from less than £1 billion ($1.4 billion) to almost £14 billion.
Whoever takes over as CEO will be charged with leading LSE’s efforts to woo oil giant Saudi Aramco to London for what is widely expected to be the world’s largest initial public offering.
“It’s very much in our interest to do this. I think there is a lot about London which is very, very attractive ... It certainly has been a focus and continues to be,” Warren said.


Leisure chief hails Saudi Arabia’s $64 billion entertainment revolution

Updated 25 March 2019
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Leisure chief hails Saudi Arabia’s $64 billion entertainment revolution

  • Projects in the pipeline exxpected to create over 22,000 jobs and contribute over $2 billion to GDP by 2030
  • KSA’s travel and tourism sector accounted for about $65 billion of the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is on the brink of a $64 billion entertainment revolution, a leisure business chief said on Sunday.

Projects in the pipeline will cater for more than 50 million visitors, create over 22,000 jobs and contribute over $2 billion to GDP by 2030, said Bill Ernest, chief executive of the Saudi Entertainment Ventures Co. (SEVEN). 

Ernest, a former Disney executive and a veteran of the entertainment industry, is already behind SEVEN’s venture with AMC Group to open cinemas in the Kingdom, its first new film venues in over 35 years.

He told delegates at a conference in Dubai on Sunday that Saudi Arabia’s travel and tourism sector accounted for about $65 billion of the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016, making it more valuable than the automotive industry, manufacturing, agriculture and banking.

He said travel and tourism in the Kingdom sustained over a million jobs that year, and that the sector had expanded by 38.2 percent since 1997.

SEVEN is one of the first companies in Saudi Arabia to embrace government investment plans of $64 billion to develop entertainment over the next decade. Ernest sketched out SEVEN’s plans for the funds, giving details of a massive multi-cluster family entertainment destination in Riyadh.

Featuring cinemas, augmented reality activities, green open areas equipped for sports and aquatic activities, live show venues and restaurants, the Riyadh destination will be the first of many such projects planned across the country, as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 program.

Job creation, Ernest said, was key to the project’s viability. “Our offerings will create exciting new roles for ambitious young Saudi nationals. We will need to provide training in new skill sets.

“While employing locals, we also want to create friendly, awe-inspiring environments where Saudi nationals will want to spend quality time with their family and friends.

“SEVEN aims to be the leader in Saudi Arabia’s entertainment ecosystem. We aim to facilitate the presence of both international and local brands, and in doing so, become the national entertainment champion.”