Saudi investors feel the pain of Aramco free-fall

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi investors, who dipped into savings and took out loans to participate in Aramco’s record share offering, have been shocked by the free-fall in the shares of the kingdom’s crown jewel after an oil output pact between OPEC and its allies collapsed.

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Aramco logo is pictured at the oil facility in Khurais, Saudi Arabia October 12, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

Shares of Aramco 2222.SE plunged 10% on Monday at start of trading, extending losses from the previous day that saw the stock fall below its initial public offering (IPO) price of 32 riyals. It was trading at 28.0 riyals at 1050 GMT, down 6.7%.

A record 5.1 million retail investors, the majority Saudis, took part in Aramco’s $29.4 billion IPO, lured by nationalistic fervor, promise of a hefty dividend and easy credit.

“I lost all the profits I made in less than 24 hours, this is insane,” Saleh al-Ghamdi, 32, a civil servant who used his savings to invest in the Aramco IPO, told Reuters.

“I have nothing to do, but to wait until shares reach the price of IPO and then I will exit and never come back to the market.”

A Twitter user named Abdullah posted a picture of a truck going full speed down a slippery slope, remarking: “This is the position of Aramco (shares) now.”

But buyers of the shares were largely Saudi retail and institutional investors in the Gulf as global funds balked at the valuation and stayed away.

Ahead of the IPO, in which Saudi retail investors bought almost 30% of Aramco’s floated shares, roadside billboards and shopping mall adverts touted what would become the world’s biggest listing: “Saudi Aramco, soon on Tadawul.”

The government promised investors one bonus share for every 10 they bought if they held on to their stock for 180 days.

“The whole family invested in Aramco on the hopes it is a guaranteed investment and we never thought it will go down,” said Um Fahad, mother of four, who bought Aramco shares along with her husband, parents, and siblings.

“The drop is shocking and saddening, but we have nothing to do, we will wait until it is up again.”

The IPO came nearly four years after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman first floated the idea in a bid to raise billions of dollars to invest in non-oil industries, create employment and diversify the world’s top crude exporter away from oil.

The market rout had taken investors by surprise and not given them enough opportunity to exit Aramco, a Riyadh-based fund manager said.

The Saudi bourse had in line with global markets been weakened by the coronavirus outbreak but saw massive declines this week after oil prices fell 30% following the collapse of the OPEC+ production curb agreement and then Riyadh’s move to open the taps and slash its crude prices.

Abu Mutlaq, 50, said he recalls when Saudi Arabia’s energy minister declared that anyone who did not seize the chance to invest in Aramco’s IPO would regret it.

“I have regret now -- regret for wasting my money on Aramco,” said Mutlaq, who took a bank loan to invest for himself and his five children.

Additional reporting by Dahlia Nehme; Editing by Ghaida Ghantous and David Evans