RIYADH: The long-awaited initial public offering of shares in Saudi Aramco, the world’s most profitable company, is back on schedule, and could happen in early December, according to sources familiar with the IPO process.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because the matter was still being discussed in private between the company and advisers, the sources said that an announcement of “intention to float” (ITF) could come as early as next weekend, and share dealings could commence on the Tadawul (Saudi Arabian stock exchange) in the first or second week of December.
Aramco declined to comment on the heightened speculation. An official statement from the company HQ in Dhahran said: “As a matter of policy, Saudi Aramco does not comment on rumor or speculation. The company continues to engage with the shareholders on IPO readiness activities. The company is ready and timing will depend on market conditions and be at a time if the shareholder’s choosing.”
The subject of the Aramco IPO was the hot ticket of conversation at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh. Some of the bankers and financial experts at the opening day of the FII were expecting a further official announcement in the course of the three-day event.
Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Governor of the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund and chairman of Aramco, told the opening plenary panel that Aramco would soon have more institutional shareholders.
An ITF announcement is the starting point in the process of listing shares on a public stock market. The ITF statement usually includes some detailed financial information – like a range of share prices and number of shares to be issued – but the final and more detailed information on which potential shareholders make their investment decision is expected to be included in a formal prospectus, published within a week of the ITF statement.
Until that information is public, it is impossible to say with certainty what valuation the government is aiming to put on the company.
Aramco was close to announcing ITF last month, but decided to hold off when some potential investors said they wanted to see official financial figures for the third quarter of the current year. This covered the attacks on Aramco facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais, which temporarily affected the company’s production output.
Independent oil companies like BP, Chevron and Exxon Mobil are due to report third quarter figures this week.