Saudi Aramco chief Amin Nasser sets out roadmap for IPO in 2021

The head of Saudi Aramco, pictured here at Davos 2017, has laid out a roadmap leading to the sale of shares in the world’s biggest oil company in 2021. (WEF)
Updated 27 January 2019

Saudi Aramco chief Amin Nasser sets out roadmap for IPO in 2021

  • ‘The IPO is going to happen. There is no doubt the commitment is there,’ CEO tells Arab News
  • Aramco considering a major acquisition in the global gas industry

DAVOS: The head of Saudi Aramco has laid out a roadmap leading to the sale of shares in the world’s biggest oil company in 2021.
“It’s going to happen,” president and chief executive Amin Nasser told Arab News. “There is no doubt the commitment is there, and it was also further confirmed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and by the Minister of Energy Khalid Al-Falih.”
The initial public offering — potentially the biggest stock-market flotation in history — will require careful coordination over the next two years, he said.

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FULL ARAB NEWS INTERVIEW WITH AMIN NASSER HERE

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The first stage is to complete the acquisition of SABIC, the Kingdom’s industrial giant, to transform Aramco into a major player in the global petrochemicals industry.
“That will take almost until the end of 2019, or maybe a little bit more; we don’t know because you need approval from a lot of countries where SABIC has major operations,” Nasser said.
“After that you need a minimum of one year to … show what is the impact on our balance sheet — because the investors will want to see. Then you can go to the market.”
Aramco is also considering a major acquisition in the global gas industry, with potential targets in the US, Russia and Australia, Nasser revealed.
“The team is identifying opportunities and we’re at the stage of reviewing them in detail before we announce anything.”


Cirque du Soleil walks a tightrope through pandemic

Updated 06 June 2020

Cirque du Soleil walks a tightrope through pandemic

  • Suitors wage backstage battle to rescue debt-stricken Canadian circus icon
  • Among the potential bidders is former fire eater Guy Laliberte, who fouded the acrobatic troupe in 1984

MONTREAL: Its shows canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an already heavily indebted Cirque du Soleil’s fight for survival has invited an intense backstage battle to try to save the Canadian cultural icon.

High on a list of potential suitors is former fire eater Guy Laliberte, who founded the acrobatic troupe in 1984 but later sold it.

“Its revival will have to be done at the right price. And not at all costs,” said the 60-year-old, determined not to see his creation sold to private interests.

The billionaire clown said after “careful consideration,” he decided “with a great team” to pursue a bid, but offered no details.

Under his leadership, the Cirque had set up big tops in more than 300 cities around the world, delighting audiences with contemporary circus acts set to music but without the usual trappings of lions, elephants and bears.

Then the pandemic hit, forcing the company in March to cancel 44 shows worldwide, from Las Vegas to Tel Aviv, Moscow to Melbourne, and lay off 4,679 acrobats and technicians, or 95 percent of its workforce.

Hurtling toward bankruptcy, the global entertainment giant and pride of Canada commissioned a bank in early May to examine its options, including a possible sale.

Meanwhile, shareholders ponied up $50 million in bridge financing for its “short-term liquidity needs.”

Laliberte, the first clown to rocket to the International Space Station in 2009, ceded control of the Cirque for $1 billion in 2015.

It has since fallen into the hands of American investment firm TPG Capital (55 percent stake) and China’s Fosun (25 percent), which also owns Club Med and Thomas Cook travel. The Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec (CDPQ) retains the last 20 percent.

The institutional investor, which manages public pension plans and insurance programs in Quebec, bought Laliberte’s last remaining 10 percent stake in the business in February, just before the pandemic.

Since 2015, the Cirque has embarked on costly acquisitions and renovations of permanent performance halls, while its creative spirit waned, according to critics in the Quebec press.

Meanwhile, it piled on more than $1 billion in debt.

Fearing that the Cirque would be “sold to foreign interests,” the Quebec government recently offered it a conditional loan of $200 million to help relaunch its shows as restrictions on large gatherings start to be eased worldwide.

But the agreement in principle is conditional on the Cirque headquarters remaining in Montreal and the province being allowed to buy US and Chinese stakes in the company at an unspecified time in the future, “at market value” and with “probably a local partner,” said Quebec Minister of the Economy Pierre Fitzgibbon.

“The state does not want to operate the circus, but the circus is too important to Quebec (to leave it to foreigners),” he said.

In addition to Laliberte, other prospective buyers include Quebecor, the telecoms and media giant of tycoon Pierre Karl Peladeau, whose opening lowball bid was outright rejected.

“It is essentially the value and reputation of the brand” that has piqued interest in the company, says Michel Magnan, corporate governance chair at Concordia University in Montreal.

But “as long as there are restrictions on gatherings of people, the future is not very rosy” for the Cirque, he said.

Several challenges await, according to Magnan.

“There were a lot of people working in all of these shows. Where are they now? What are they doing? How are they doing? In what shape are they, what state of mind?” he said.

“The more time passes, the more this expertise risks evaporating.”

Small consolation: The Cirque resumed its performances on Wednesday in Hangzhou, China, five months after a coronavirus outbreak in the city.