Saudi Aramco chief says IPO on track for 2018


Riyadh (AFP)

The head of Saudi oil giant Aramco has said a much-anticipated IPO is on track for 2018, but declined to give a fixed date -- or venue.

"We should be ready for listing in the second half of 2018," CEO Amin Nasser told Bloomberg Television on Monday, conceding that the oil giant was looking at a "complex process".

"There's a lot of work that is still ongoing, the IPO is ongoing," Nasser said.

"The venue and the timing is the government... Don't forget this is a very complex process. Aramco's size and complexities is something that requires time."

Saudi authorities plan to list five percent of Aramco on an as-yet unspecified stock market, but the company has struggled to arrive at a $2 trillion valuation sought by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Investors are reportedly sceptical about the lengthy process of placing Aramco on a foreign stock exchange, potentially the largest stock sale ever, with New York, London and Hong Kong among the potential sites.

Nasser, however, said there was "a lot of demand for the listing".

Saudi Arabia's energy minister has raised concerns that litigation would complicate a listing in New York, although President Donald Trump has publicly lobbied for a US Aramco listing.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the company may scrap its international plans and opt instead for a domestic exchange listing.

London's Financial Times reported earlier this month that the IPO may be delayed until 2019 at the earliest, citing British officials briefed on the matter.

The Aramco IPO plan is a pillar of the petro-state's "Vision 2030" reform programme, which aims to wean the economy off its reliance on oil revenues.

Saudi Arabia, which counted on crude for more than 90 percent of its public revenues, has struggled to bounce back from a 2014 global oil market crash triggered by an output surplus.

The kingdom this year introduced a value-added tax for the first time in its history, along with new fees on its sizeable expatriate workforce, and it is opening up the ultraconservative country to tourism.