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Banking

Middle East: Worried Saudis float an Aramco IPO

Saudi Aramco is a behemoth: the world’s most valuable company and the lifeblood of the Saudi state and royal family. Bankers and investors have mixed emotions over plans to list it; this could be a huge opportunity, but is it feasible?

Mark_Diab-600

Mark Diab, chief executive at Man Investments Middle East

When Saudi Aramco confirmed that it was considering going public with a listing, there were two immediate reactions among investment bankers – wide-eyed avarice and a sense of doubt.

Saudi Aramco is much more than just an emerging-markets oil player. It would, if it went public, easily become the most valuable company in the world. Nobody outside the Saudi elite knows its exact financial position, just that it has the most oil reserves of any company on Earth, equivalent to 268 billion barrels of oil, which it pumps out at a rate of about 12 million a day. 

Estimates of its market capitalization run in to the trillions, as high as $10 trillion. If that figure proved to be true it would be more than 30 times more valuable than the world’s largest publicly traded energy company, Exxon Mobil. To become the world’s largest ever IPO, it would only need to float a quarter of 1% of its shares.

Moreover, Saudi Aramco is, in the Saudi context, a lot more than a company.

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