Aramco IPO to go ahead by early 2021

I believe it will be above $2 trillion, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Bloomberg. (SPA)
Updated 06 October 2018
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Aramco IPO to go ahead by early 2021

  • The investor will decide the price on the day. I believe it will be above $2 trillion, says Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
  • Saudi Arabia has been planning to float up to 5 percent of Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest national oil company, on the stock market

LONDON: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the flotation of Saudi Aramco would proceed by 2021, Bloomberg reported on Friday.

He made the disclosure in a wide-ranging interview with the newswire conducted at the royal palace in Riyadh on Wednesday.

It also touched on his relationship with Donald Trump, plans to invest a further $45 billion in Softbank, the rising oil price, and production of crude along the Saudi border with Kuwait.

His comments bring clarity to what could be the most talked about initial public offering in corporate history and one that is a key plank of the Vision 2030 economic and social reform agenda.

“I believe late 2020, early 2021,” he said, referring to the timing of the IPO. “The investor will decide the price on the day. I believe it will be above $2 trillion. Because it will be huge.”

Saudi Arabia has been planning to float up to 5 percent of Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest national oil company, on the stock market.

In recent months there had been intense media speculation over whether the planned IPO had been delayed, canceled or replaced with a rival deal involving Aramco purchasing Saudi Basic Industries Corporation, the petrochemical giant better known as SABIC.

The Saudi crown prince told Bloomberg that the Saudi government would retain the shares of Aramco after the IPO, instead of transferring them into the sovereign wealth fund as originally planned.

Instead, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) would receive the $70 billion from the sale of its stake in SABIC, plus the $100 billion that country hopes to raise from the Aramco IPO, Bloomberg reported.

The Bloomberg interview also touched on future oil production in the so-called Saudi-Kuwait neutral zone. (Bloomberg)

The interview took place against a backdrop of market concerns over the rising price of oil, caused in part by the reimposition of US sanctions against Iran.

US president Donald Trump has in recent weeks stepped up pressure on OPEC and Saudi Arabia to pump more crude and help to lower the price of oil.

However, the crown prince stressed that the oil price was determined by market forces rather than the actions of Saudi Arabia.

“We never in the history of Saudi Arabia decided that this is the right or wrong oil price,” he said.

“The oil price depends on trade — consumer and supplier — and they decide the oil price based on trade and supply and demand. What we are committed in Saudi Arabia is to make sure there is no shortage of supply. So we work with our allies in OPEC and also non-OPEC countries to be sure that we have a sustainable supply of oil and there is no shortage and that there is good demand, that it will not create problems for the consumers and their plans and development.”

He also clarified that Saudi Arabia had spare capacity of 1.3 million barrels without the need for further investment.

“So in Saudi Arabia we have 1.3 million to go if the market needs that. And with other OPEC countries and non-OPEC countries we believe we have more than that, a little bit more than that. And of course there is opportunity for investment in the next three to five years,” he said.

The Bloomberg interview also touched on future oil production in the so-called Saudi-Kuwait neutral zone — an undefined border area between the two countries.

“There are only small issues that have been stuck there for the last 50 years. The Kuwaiti side, they want to fix it today, before we continue to produce in that area,” he said. “It’s part of the sovereignty issues that are stuck, unsolved, between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for the past 50 years. And they want to fix it now before we continue to produce from that area. We think a 50-year-old issue is almost impossible to fix in a few weeks. So we’re trying to have an agreement with the Kuwaitis to continue to produce for the next five to 10 years and at the same time, we work on the sovereignty issues.”

The interview also covered recent reports about planned financial aid from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait for neighboring Bahrain.

“We cannot walk away from GCC countries. It (the financial package) will cover Bahrain’s needs over five years. We believe they’ve taken really serious reforms in the past year. We believe they’ve made huge progress. They have a super amazing team. I told the Bahraini king and the Bahraini crown prince if you fire any of the people in Bahrain we will hire them next day," he said.


Saudi crown prince’s India visit to boost bilateral investment

Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser leaves after attending the Saudi-India Forum in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Reuters)
Updated 46 min 4 sec ago
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Saudi crown prince’s India visit to boost bilateral investment

  • Vision 2030 offers huge opportunities to Indian businessmen in non-oil sector

Many Indian businesses that already operate in the Kingdom are interested in expanding as part of Vision 2030. Retail company Lulu Group International, for example, plans to open 12 new hypermarkets and five malls in Saudi Arabia by next year. 

It already employs more than 2,700 Saudi nationals and plans to increase this number to about 5,000 by 2020.

“Saudi Arabia is a very important market and we will invest in the booming retail sector as we are upbeat about the vast opportunities in the Kingdom through its Vision 2030 initiative,” said Yusuff Ali M. A., the chairman of Lulu Group.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s first visit to India will propel trade and bilateral business relations between the two countries to new heights, experts predict.

Saudi Arabia has long been an important trade partner for India, said Mir Gazanfar Ali Zaki, the general secretary of the Saudi Indian Business Network, and the crown prince’s trip could expand and enhance ties in diverse fields.

According to Saudi Arabia’s General Investment Authority, more than 420 Indian companies operate in the Kingdom through joint ventures or with 100 percent ownership. They have capital of more than $1.5 billion and cover sectors including management and consultancy services, construction projects, telecommunications, information technology and pharmaceuticals.

Saudi Vision 2030, the crown prince’s brainchild, aims to transform the country by diversifying its economy through a series of reforms in non-oil sectors. India hopes to play a significant role in this expansion. The key sectors that India can target to expand and boost trade ties with the Kingdom include software development, solar energy, jewelry, fashion, tourism, education and food, said Zaki.

The cultural reforms initiated recently by the crown prince also clear the way for a wide range of business opportunities in the entertainment sector that India is well placed to cash in on. Bollywood films and music rank high on the list of popular entertainment among many Saudis, and with the recent reopening of cinemas in the Kingdom, and ambitious plans to build hundreds of theaters across the country, there is a huge opportunity for an Indian film to grab a large share of the market.

India’s bilateral trade with Saudi Arabia was worth $27.48 billion in the financial year 2017-18, according to the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, making the Kingdom the country’s fourth-largest trading partner. It is the main supplier of energy, providing more than 18 percent of India’s oil. However, bilateral trade has dropped by almost a half from a high of about $48 billion five years ago because of the fall in global demand for oil. This might soon change, analysts say, as more investors from India are tempted by the Vision 2030 opportunities.

This view is shared by a Middle East Institute analysis that said: “As reforms related to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 are implemented, Indian investors are likely to be attracted to several sectors, including infrastructure, hydrocarbons, desalination, renewable energy, education, research and development, health and pharmaceuticals.”

“We have trained about 200 Saudi nationals to take our business forward,” P. A. Ibrahim, the chairman of Indian company Malabar Gold and Diamonds said. “It is really a huge success that gives us the confidence to open more branches in the Kingdom. Vision 2030 and the Neom project have opened up good opportunities for us to invest more. We are planning four more jewelry outlets in the Kingdom soon,” he said.

A growing area of trade cooperation between the two countries is the field of petrochemical projects. Saudi oil company Aramco, in partnership with the UAE’s Adnoc, recently announced a joint venture for a stake in the $44 billion Ratnagiri Refinery and Petrochemicals project. Cooperation in the sector is expected to grow and it is thought new agreements might be signed during the crown prince’s visit.

An enduring and tangible aspect of the bilateral relations is the presence of a strong, vibrant community of 2.7 million Indians in Saudi Arabia, the largest single group of expatriates in the country. In addition, the Kingdom welcomes more than 175,000 Indian Hajj pilgrims every year.

“We can transform the trade links and cooperation to people-to-people coexistence because of this,” said Zaki. “By promoting foreign direct investment at Saudi trade shows and Indian trade shows, businesses from both countries can benefit. India and Saudi Arabia can organize Indo-Saudi trade exhibitions in both countries so that it can be a common platform for bilateral trade. Both countries should organize as many business-to-business meetings as possible.”

He highlighted the recent efforts by the Saudi Indian Business Network to achieve this through exhibitions such as the Kerala Gems and Jewelry show, the Kolkata Gems and Jewelry Show, Indus Food 2019 in Greater Noida, the International Indian Jewelry Show Signature in Mumbai, the Food Festival of India in Jeddah, the Film Festival of India in Jeddah, Global Exhibition on Services in Mumbai, Business Opportunities in India in Jeddah, and Tea Around the World in Jeddah.

The crown prince’s visit has great political significance, too. While energy and economic cooperation will remain the mainstay of bilateral ties, the two nations are trying to strengthen their cooperation in defense and security. The Ministry of External Affairs has talked of a growing desire in Riyadh for stronger strategic relations and improved intelligence sharing.