Saudi Aramco ‘ready’ for IPO, says oil giant’s finance boss

Aramco revealed their financial statement for the first half of 2019 (File/AFP)
Updated 14 August 2019

Saudi Aramco ‘ready’ for IPO, says oil giant’s finance boss

  • Aramco said their income for the first-half of 2019 was $46.9 billion
  • ● Net income of $46.9bn for first half of 2019 ● $70bn merger with Sabic on track for completion

DUBAI: Saudi Aramco said it was ready for an IPO, as it opened itself up to scrutiny through a conference call with financial analysts from some of the world’s biggest institutions.

Khalid Al-Dabbagh, chief financial officer of the state oil company, fielded questions from experts in energy, finance and investment. His message to international investors was that Aramco is in good financial health, pursuing its long-term strategic objectives, and is ready to come to stock markets through an initial public offering (IPO) whenever the Kingdom’s government, the owner of Aramco, decides the time is right.
Al-Dabbagh, who was speaking from the group’s Dammam headquarters, said: “We have delivered strong and unmatched financial results despite the lower oil price and volatile market conditions. This is a testament to our resilience.”
Aramco earlier unveiled a net income of $46.9 billion for the first half of 2019 — more than the profits of all independent oil majors combined — on revenues of $146.9 billion. Both figures were down from the same period in 2018, mainly because of the lower oil price and higher expenditure.
Post-results conference calls are common for big companies after details of financial performance have been sent to the appropriate authority — in this case the London Stock Exchange (LSE), where Aramco bonds are listed.

The company is ready for the IPO, but the timing is a shareholder issue, and is dependent on their perception of market conditions.

Khalid Al-Dabbagh, Chief financial officer of Saudi Aramco

But it was the first time Aramco has invited interrogation from investment analysts, and a sign it is gearing up for further engagement in the global financial markets, including what will almost certainly be the biggest share offer in history.
In the 30-minute webcast, Al-Dabbagh took calls from nine analysts from global investment institutions. Most of the questions sought clarification or further details of what had already been announced on the LSE, but he also hammered home some of the big messages Aramco was trying to get across. Al-Dabbagh underlined the commitment to expansion in the downstream business, Aramco’s environmental priorities, and its determination to ensure supply and delivery of oil supplies to the world. He also reassured analysts that the $70 billion merger with SABIC, the Kingdom’s industrial giant, was on track for completion “very soon.”
Irene Himona, managing director for oil and gas at French bank Societe Generale, asked about future dividend policy, which could be a crucial factor in deciding the attractiveness of shares in an IPO.
Al-Dabbagh said that dividends would be decided according to sustainability, affordability and benchmarking with its peer group in the oil industry which already pay dividends.
Richard Segal, senior analyst at Canadian financial giant Manulife Asset Management, asked for an update on the IPO. “The company is ready for the IPO, but the timing is a shareholder issue, and is dependent on their perception of market conditions,” Al-Dabbagh answered.

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$ 146.9bn - revenue for the first half of 2019 was announced by Saudi Aramco on Monday.

There were also questions about Aramco’s financial position and the specifics of its production processes. Martijn Rats, global oil strategist at Morgan Stanley, asked why Aramco’s cash flow and net income were substantially higher than its oil industry peers, and why return on capital was “in a different ball park.”
Al-Dabbagh said that Aramco had a long-term strategy focused on sustainable value growth, underpinned by operational excellence and innovative technology, with some of the most productive reservoirs on earth that were wholly owned by Aramco, as well as lower production costs than its peers.
Christyan Malek, head of regional oil and gas research at JP Morgan, said that Aramco’s carbon densities — the measure of pollutant in its crude output — were among the best in the energy business, and it also had a relatively low flaring rate.  “We were not surprised by the audit of our carbon intensity. It’s a result of decades of diligent environmental protection methods,” Al-Dabbagh replied.


Gulf Marine CEO quits after review sparks profit warning

Updated 22 August 2019

Gulf Marine CEO quits after review sparks profit warning

  • Tensions in the Arabian Gulf, a worrisome global growth outlook and uncertainty over oil prices have recently dampened investor confidence

DUBAI: Gulf Marine Services said on Wednesday Chief Executive Officer Duncan Anderson has resigned as the oilfield industry contractor warned a reassessment of its ships and contracts showed profit would fall this year, kicking its shares 12 percent down.

The Abu Dhabi-based offshore services specialist said a review by new finance chief Stephen Kersley of its large E-class vessels operating in Northwest Europe and the Middle East pointed to 2019 core earnings of between $45 million and $48 million, below $58 million that it reported last year.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Anderson, who has served as CEO for 12 years, was asked to step down. Anderson could not be reached for comment.

The company, which in the past predominantly operated in the UAE, expanded operations and deployed large vessels in the North Sea and Saudi Arabia nine years ago and listed its shares in London in 2014.

Tensions in the Arabian Gulf, a worrisome global growth outlook and uncertainty over oil prices have recently dampened investor confidence.

The North Sea has seen a revival in production in recent years due to new fields coming on line and improved performance by operators following the 2014 oil price collapse.

Still, the basin’s production is expected to decline over the next decade, according to Britain’s Oil and Gas Authority.

“(The CFO’s) review has coincided with a pause in renewables-related self-propelled self-elevating support vessels activity in the North Sea, which will impact several of the higher day-rate E-Class vessels,” Investec wrote in a note.

Gulf Marine appointed industry veteran Kersley as chief financial officer in late May as it sought to halt a slide which has seen the company’s shares fall nearly 80 percent last year and another 23 percent so far this year.

The company said market conditions remained challenging and that it was still in talks with its financial advisors regarding a new capital structure.

“Management, the new board and the group’s advisors, have been in negotiation with the group’s banks on resetting its capital structure and progress has been made,” it said in a statement.

Last year, Gulf Marine said contracts were delayed into 2019 as the company was seen to be in breach of certain banking covenants at the end of 2018.

The company said it was still in talks with its banks and individual lenders with hopes of getting a waiver or an agreement to amend the concerned covenants.