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CAPITAL MARKETS

Market reform, Aramco IPO in focus as Saudi seeks to reassure investors

Saudi Arabia is pressing on with capital markets reform and its planned IPO of Aramco in spite of drone attacks on its oil facilities that briefly spooked markets. Virginia Furness reports from Riyadh.

Saudi Arabian government ministers attending a Euromoney conference in Riyadh on Wednesday made little mention of last weekend's drone attacks on two Saudi oil facilities. The emphasis was on downplaying any impact on the country's economy one day after Saudi Aramco had reassured investors that its initial public offer was still on track and lawmakers had approved capital market reforms.

While the drone attacks ‒ claimed by Houthi rebels based in Yemen but blamed on Iran by the US ‒ have shaken an already fragile geopolitical situation, Saudi officials are keen to press ahead with the country's attempts to attract foreign investment to the economy as it looks to diversify its revenues away from oil.

"The Saudi government is facing tension," said commerce and investment minister Majid Abdullah Al-Kassabi. "Within all of this we are still safe and we are still attracting investment.”

On Tuesday, Aramco's chairman, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, said that the country would carry out within the next 12 months its planned initial public offering (IPO) of Saudi Aramco, which operated the facilities that were attacked. The statement set for the first time an official ‒ if still vague ‒ timeline on a deal that is deemed to be integral to the opening up of Saudi capital markets.