Saudi Aramco’s Amin Nasser warms the night in glittering Davos reception

Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser thanked guests for their continuing collaboration with the company at a function in the InterContinental hotel, in Davos. (Courtesy WEF)
Updated 25 January 2019
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Saudi Aramco’s Amin Nasser warms the night in glittering Davos reception

  • The world’s biggest oil company greeted political and business leaders at the InterContinental hotel
  • The guests included ministers and oil executives from Saudi Arabia and top business executives and financiers from around the world

DAVOS: Saudi Aramco welcomed a delegation of the global elite to a reception at the World Economic Forum which, even by the glittering standards of Davos, was a sumptuous affair.

Hosted by CEO Amin Nasser, the world’s biggest oil company greeted political and business leaders at the InterContinental hotel, a short drive through the ice night from the main Congress Hall venue.

Though the temperature outside was well below zero, the hospitality in the cavernous reception hall was warm. The guests — including ministers and oil executives from Saudi Arabia and top business executives and financiers from around the world — were treated to a selection of gourmet canapés and refreshments, and all seemed to be enjoying the convivial atmosphere.

Joe Kaeser, chief executive of the German engineering giant Siemens, said: “This is a pleasant break from the back-to-back business meetings of Davos.” His company is in the running for some of the big contracts on prospect in the mega-projects underway in the Kingdom as part of the Vision 2030 diversification strategy.

The guests were treated to an extravagant visual exhibition of the Manifa oilfield off the Saudi Arabian Gulf coast, which has been praised throughout the world for its innovative approach to combining oil exploration with environmental concern.

During its annual meeting the World Economic Forum recognized another Aramco project, the Uthmaniyah gas plant, as a “lighthouse” manufacturing facility and a technology leader in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

Nasser said: “The recognition of the Uthmaniyah Gas Plant demonstrates Saudi Aramco’s shift to transform and adapt in the rapidly changing global energy landscape. Through the application of 4IR technologies, we can be at the forefront of the industry helping to shape the future of energy as part of Saudi Aramco’s mission to supply oil and gas around the world safely and reliably.”

In a short speech, Nasser thanked the guests for their continuing collaboration with Aramco, before handing over to Saudi musicians, including Madani Abadi on strings.

He revealed that Abadi was a former Aramco employee, and joked: “He used to work for us, but now he has a much better job.”


Slack primed as latest unicorn to make market debut

Updated 19 June 2019
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Slack primed as latest unicorn to make market debut

  • Slack is a cloud-based software company that markets online tools for information sharing and workflow management
  • Current customers include Nordstrom, Ford and HSBC and the company has more than 95,000 paid customers overall

NEW YORK: The 2019 parade of big new Wall Street entrants continues this week with the debut of Slack Technologies, underscoring investor hunger for new companies in spite of some high-profile stumbles.
Nearly halfway through the year, US markets are on track for one of the biggest IPO seasons ever in terms of money raised following a stream of offerings from former “unicorns,” private companies worth more than $1 billion.
Yet two of this year’s biggest names — Uber and Lyft — currently trade below their IPO price, along with Snapchat, which has lagged its initial price for most of the time since it went public in March 2017.
Still, there have also been plenty of prominent companies that have risen since their initial public offerings, including jeans company Levi’s, Tradeweb Markets, which builds electronic marketplaces, Zoom Video Communications, and mobile application and software system Pinterest.
The most dramatic jump has been in food company Beyond Meat, which now trades at more than six-fold its entering price.
“The public has a huge interest” in new companies, said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade, adding that the mixed performance of the 2019 ex-unicorn class is comparable to that of the broader market.
“There aren’t a lot of other choices besides IPOs for investors seeking growth,” said Gregori Volokhine, president of Meeschaert Financial Services, who attributes the rush of funds in part to central bank policies promoting liquidity.
“There’s an excess of underinvested funds worldwide,” he said.
In terms of sheer volume, the number of IPOs in 2019 so far — 93 — is roughly equal to last year’s figure, according to Dealogic.
But the funds raised, $34.5 billion, stand 13.6 percent above last year’s sum and the highest for the comparable period since 2000, according to Dealogic data.

Direct listing
A cloud-based software company that markets online tools for information sharing and workflow management, San Francisco-based Slack parts ways from the other big companies this year by opting for a direct listing instead of an IPO.
This approach, which was also employed by Spotify last year, cuts down on fees to investment bankers in IPOs. Although existing shares can be sold, a direct listing does not issue new shares, averting share dilution but also forgoing the new funds raised in an IPO.
The process can also be riskier in terms of share price volatility compared with an IPO, where underwriters line up investors in advance. In a direct listing, shares are exposed more directly to the open market.
Slack chief executive and co-founder Stewart Butterfield described the company’s technologies as a “brand new category of software” that replaces email in a company.
Current customers include Nordstrom, Ford and HSBC and the company has more than 95,000 paid customers overall.
“It turns email to messages and organizes them into team, project and topic based channels instead of individual in-boxes,” Butterfield said in a June 10 earnings conference call.
“It’s a team-first approach to communication, in contrast to email’s individual first approach. It creates a rich, searchable, permanent body of information that’s widely available across an organization, even for people who just joined the team.”
 

Unprofitable three years
The company, which is expected to be valued at around $17 billion when it enters the market on Thursday, reported revenues of $134.8 million in the quarter ending April 30, up 66.7 percent from the year-ago period.
But Slack, which has been unprofitable the last three years, reported a $33.3 million loss during the period, 34 percent more than last year’s loss.
Of course, many unprofitable companies have gone public and done well in markets for years. Yet the heavy losses and murky profit outlook at Uber and Lyft have been seen as factors in their lackluster performance since going public.
But investors remain keen on growth stories following the success of Amazon, Facebook and other tech giants that have emerged in recent decades.
A key beneficiary of this desire has been Beyond Meat, which has multiplied in value many times since going public May 3 at $25 and currently is priced at $168.92. The company has been seen as a main beneficiary of the growing alternative protein market, which some analysts think could top $100 billion in the coming decade or so.
Kinahan said in general investors have wised up after the early 2000s Internet bubble but that “it’s just unnatural” for stocks like Beyond Meat to move in an unbroken straight line upwards.
“There’s a healthy bit of skepticism in the market,” he said. “However, certain companies have maybe gotten a little ahead of themselves.”