Tadawul has contingency plans to handle full Saudi Aramco IPO

Khalid Al-Hussan, CEO of the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul), is ready for the Saudi Aramco IPO in whatever shape it comes. (Reuters)
Updated 02 May 2018
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Tadawul has contingency plans to handle full Saudi Aramco IPO

  • Tadawul has capacity to handle entire listing
  • Stock exchange has central counter-party clearing house

RIYADH: The Riyadh stock exchange has a range of options for a possible listing of shares in Saudi Aramco later this year, the chief executive of Tadawul told Arab News.

Khalid Al-Hussan said that the exchange was ready to list all the shares in a potential initial public offering of 5 percent of Aramco shares, which could be worth $100 billion at current official estimates.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Euromoney conference in Riyadh, he said: “The Saudi economy has the capacity to take care of the whole IPO. There is untapped capacity outside the exchange if we need that, from corporates, individuals and foreign investors.”

Some experts have cast doubt on the Tadawul’s ability to digest such a big share offering as Aramco, which would account for nearly 20 percent of its market capitalization of around $530 billion.

They have argued that other stock markets, like New York or London, would have to be involved in the IPO, or that some shares could be sold to private investors.

Al-Hussan’s comments will add to increasing speculation that the government is leaning toward a Saudi listing before the end of this year.

He insisted that the exchange was ready and able to undertake the full listing, if asked, though he allowed that the final decision was up to the government, which would issue the shares.

“It has been determined clearly that the Tadawul is the home exchange, but the issuer will make the decision on whether it is the only exchange. What we have done is to prepare a case for each scenario, so that whenever we get the full detail on the IPO, we will have done our preparation. We have looked at all the contingencies for each scenario.”

However, he made clear that his preference was to undertake the IPO exclusively on Tadawul. “I aspire to have the whole IPO on Tadawul. But of course I’m looking at it from an exchange point of view, whereas the owner is looking at it from a national point of view,” he said.

Al-Hussan said that all the necessary regulatory, technological, operational and human preparation had been done to allow a full Aramco IPO. “We are all ready to welcome such a unique national IPO as Aramco onto the Tadawul,” he said.

“If the world comes to Aramco (via an exclusive listing on Tadawul), we are open to that and our market is accessible. If Aramco goes to the world (by listing on another market in addition to Aramco) we welcome that too, and we are ready to compete with the global exchanges,” he said.

Tadawul — the biggest and most liquid exchange in the Gulf — has been talking to other regional exchanges about the possibility of dual listings ahead of what is expected to be a rush of IPOs as the Saudi privatization program gets underway. Al-Hussan said this process was ongoing.

“We have to focus on bringing more IPOs to market, we have to persuade corporates of the benefits of going public. We are telling them to start the process of due diligence now in preparation. When you pull the trigger to go public, that is your decision, but you have to be ready,” he said.

Tadawul also announced that it has set up a central counter-party clearing house in order to diversify investment opportunities and bring in new asset classes such as derivatives.

“This will enable Saudi companies to hedge against risks, which will enhance the attractiveness of the Saudi capital market to all investors. It will improve risk management of the market buy introducing new mechanisms to ensure that the settlement is compete and that all parties meet their obligations when settling trades in the market.

The new clearing house has been set up in the from of a closed joint stock company with SR600 million ($159.9 million) of capital. Equity settlement is expected to start in the second half of next year, with derivative settlement a year later.

FASTFACTS

Factoid

A 5 percent listing of Saudi Aramco stock could be worth as much as $100 billion


Jordanian cabinet approves new IMF-guided tax law to boost finances

Updated 21 May 2018
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Jordanian cabinet approves new IMF-guided tax law to boost finances

AMMAN: Jordan’s cabinet on Monday approved major IMF-guided proposals that aim to double the income tax base, as a key part of reforms to boost the finances of a debt-burdened economy hit by regional conflict.
“When only 4 percent of Jordanians pay (personal) income tax, this may not be the right thing,” Finance Minister Omar Malhas said in remarks after the cabinet meeting, adding the goal was to push that to eight percent. The draft legislation was submitted to parliament.
The IMF’s three-year Extended Fund Facility program aims to generate more state revenue to gradually bring down public debt to 77 percent of GDP in 2021, from a record 95 percent.
A few months ago Jordan raised levies on hundreds of food and consumer items by unifying general sales tax (GST) to 16 percent — removing exemptions on many basic goods.
In January subsidies on bread were ended, doubling some prices in a country with rising unemployment and poverty among its eight million people.
The income tax move and the GST reforms will bring an estimated 840 million dinars ($1.2 billion) in extra annual tax revenue that will help reduce chronic budget shortfalls normally covered by foreign aid, officials say.
Corporate income tax on banks, financial institutions and insurance companies will be pushed to 40 percent from 30 percent. Taxes on Jordan’s phosphate and potash mining industry will be raised to 30 percent from 24.
The government argues the reforms will reduce social disparities by progressively taxing high earners while leaving low-paid public sector employees largely untouched.
“This is a fair tax law not an unfair one,” said Malhas, who shrugged off criticism the law is lenient on many businesses connected to politicians whose transactions are not subject to tax scrutiny.
Husam Abu Ali, the head of the Income and Sales Tax Department, said a proposed IMF-recommended Financial Crime Investigations Unit will stiffen penalties for tax evaders. Critics say it will not tackle pervasive corruption in state institutions.
Abu Ali said the government could be losing hundreds of millions of dollars through tax evasion, which is as high as 80 percent in some companies.
The amendments lower the income tax threshold and raise tax rates. Unions said the government was caving in to IMF demands and squeezing more from the same taxpayers.
“It is penalizing a group that has long paid what it owes the state,” the unions syndicate said in a statement.
“It imposes injustice on employees whose salaries have barely coped with price hikes rising madly in recent years.”