October 29, 2019 / 6:23 AM / 19 days ago

Saudi Aramco aims to begin planned IPO on November 3: sources

DUBAI/RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Aramco aims to announce the start of its initial public offering (IPO) on Nov. 3, three people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters, after delaying the deal earlier this month to give advisers time to secure cornerstone investors.

The people also said Aramco’s chief executive officer, Amin Nasser, was not present at the conference on Tuesday as he was meeting investors abroad ahead of the offering.

Aramco is looking to float a 1% to 2% stake on the kingdom’s Tadawul market, in what would be one of the largest ever public offerings, worth upwards of $20 billion.

Aramco, in response to queries by Reuters, said on Tuesday the oil company “does not comment on rumor or speculation. The company continues to engage with the shareholders on IPO readiness activities. The company is ready and timing will depend on market conditions and be at a time of the shareholders’ choosing.”

The people declined to be identified due to commercial sensitivities.

The company will soon have more shareholders from institutions, the head of the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, Yassir al-Rumayyan, said.

Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) and chairman of Aramco’s board of directors, was speaking at a panel at the conference in Riyadh.

Aramco will start subscription for investors in its initial public offering on Dec. 4, Saudi-owned news channel Al-Arabiya said in a news flash on Tuesday citing sources.

The oil giant plans to announce the transaction’s price on Nov. 17, it added. The company will begin trading on the local stock market, the Tadawul, on Dec. 11, the broadcaster reported.

The prospect of Aramco selling a piece of itself has had Wall Street on tenterhooks since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman first flagged it three years ago.

However, his desired $2 trillion valuation has always been questioned by some financiers and industry experts, who note that countries have been accelerating efforts to shift away from fossil fuels to curb global warming, putting oil prices under pressure and undermining producers’ equity value.

Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), is working on a consortium of investors for Aramco’s IPO, its chief executive said.

“There are several Russian pensions funds who are interested to invest in the Aramco IPO and we have also received indications from our Russia-China fund of some Chinese major institutions also interested in Aramco IPO,” Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) head Kirill Dmitriev told reporters on Tuesday.

Separately, Aramco has not approached the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) to invest in the IPO, the sovereign wealth fund’s managing director Farouk Bastaki said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: The Saudi Aramco logo pictured at the company's oil facility in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, October 12, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

“KIA has not been approached by Aramco or its advisers for the IPO, and KIA will look at the IPO like any other investment,” Bastaki told reporters on the sidelines of an investment conference in Riyadh.

Singapore Exchange Limited’s chief executive Boon Chye Loh on Tuesday declined to comment directly on whether the exchange was in talks about a future international listing of Aramco in Singapore.

“As an exchange that offers efficient access into almost 100% of Asia, we are as attractive as any other exchange for any other company looking for capital raising,” he said on the sidelines of the conference in Riyadh.

Reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh in Dubai, Davide Barbuscia and Saeed Azhar in Riyadh; Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal and Marwa Rashad in Riyadh, and Asma AlSharif in Dubai; editing by Giles Elgood and Jason Neely

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