November 4, 2019
Saudi Aramco, the oil-producing behemoth of Saudi Arabia, is going public. The company on Sunday officially announced its long-awaited initial public offering, which is expected to be the largest sale of shares in history.
"Our vision is to be the world's preeminent integrated energy and chemicals company," Amin H. Nasser, Saudi Aramco's president and CEO, said in a video statement. "This is a transformational and historic moment for Saudi Aramco."
While estimates vary, the IPO is expected to value Saudi Aramco at roughly $1.5 trillion, making it the most profitable company in the world. Shares are expected to begin trading on the Tadawul, the stock exchange in Riyadh, in the coming months.
Saudi Aramco — often referred to as the Kingdom's crown jewel — is the world's largest oil and gas producer and employees over 76,000 people. With facilities and subsidiaries across the world, it produced 10.3 million barrels of crude oil per day and 1.1 million barrels of natural gas per day in 2018. Between 2016 and 2018, Saudi Aramco produced one in every eight barrels of crude oil produced globally, according to the firm.
"Our mission is to provide our shareholders with long term value creation," Nasser said. "We do that by maintaining our position in oil and gas production, capturing additional value across the hydrocarbon value chain, and profitably growing our business."
Saudi Aramco's President and CEO Amin Nasser (L) and Chairman Yasir al-Rumayyan (R) at a press conference in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia on Sunday. Photo Credit: EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Saudi Aramco is also a major cash cow, reporting $111 billion in profit last year. Apple ($AAPL), in comparison, took in roughly $60 billion in 2018 and Exxon Mobil ($XOM), the largest U.S. oil producer, reported $20.8 billion in profit. Yet as a state-owned company, much remains opaque about the company's inner finances.
"We just don't really know what is involved when it comes to their profits and where they're getting their money," said TG Watkins, the director of stocks at Simpler Trading. Questions also loom over how willing global investors will be to invest in a company tied so closely to the House of Saud, Kingdom's ruling royal family.
Regardless, Saudi Aramco's reported sale of shares making up 2 percent of the company is expected to raise around $40 billion — far exceeding the $25 billion IPO record set in 2014 by Alibaba ($BABA).
Saudi Aramco's market debut is part of the government's Vision 2030 agenda, which has been spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the Kingdom's de facto leader. The plan seeks to diversify the nation's economy in the next decade through renewable energy investments and other strategic financing.
Capital raised from Saudi Aramco's IPO is expected to fund the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), a sovereign wealth fund. Just last week, the PIF announced that it secured a $10 billion bridge loan from 10 international banks, including Bank of America and Citigroup, that will allow it to "accelerate execution of its investment program."
Saudi Aramco's IPO was first floated in 2016 by the crown prince, who is widely known as MSB, but has since been delayed several times, including after the drone attack on two Aramco facilities in September. The company got the green light for an IPO on Sunday from the government's Capital Market Authority.
The Tadawul said in a statement that Saudi Aramco would release detailed financial statements ahead of trading.