JPMorgan initiates coverage of Saudi Aramco with 'overweight' rating

DUBAI, Jan 15 (Reuters) - JPMorgan has initiated coverage of Saudi Aramco’s shares with an “overweight” rating and a price target of 37 riyals ($9.86) per share, saying it sees scope for the company to increase its proposed $75 billion base dividend.

JPMorgan was a joint global coordinator on Aramco’s public share sale in December, which raised a record of $29.4 billion in total, including a so-called greenshoe allocation of extra shares on the back of strong demand.

In the run-up to the listing, the Saudi state oil giant said it planned to pay a base dividend of $75 billion in 2020.

“Our bullish view is predicated on its dividend growth outlook, with scope to increase the $75 billion baseline as production scales up,” it said in a note on Wednesday.

JPMorgan said Aramco’s ability to sell its oil at a premium, capital expenditure flexibility and a low debt to equity ratio, would allow Aramco to distribute a higher percentage of cashflow.

At 0703 GMT, Aramco shares were trading 0.1% lower at 34.80 riyals, compared with their IPO price of 32 riyals.

JPMorgan is the first major global bank to assign Aramco an overweight rating.

HSBC also initiated coverage of Aramco on Wednesday, with a “hold” rating and price target of 36.80 riyals, while Goldman Sachs on Tuesday rated the company “neutral” with a price target of 41 riyals.

Both Bernstein and Jeffries initiated coverage of Aramco last month with an “underperform” rating, saying that the company had been priced at a premium to international oil majors despite governance issues.

$1 = 3.7516 riyals Reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh; Editing by Kirsten Donovan