Citing sources close to the process, Reuters on Tuesday reported that the chances of an international initial public offering, or IPO, are hanging in the balance.
“I would guess it is about evens that there will be no international IPO,” one high-level source said, according to the agency.
Saudi Arabia is understood to be planning to list up to 5 per cent of Saudi Aramco on a stock exchange, a transaction that could value the company at as much as $2 trillion, easily making it the world’s largest listed company.
Cities including London and New York have for months been vying to be awarded the deal, but Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, last week said that the company was too important to risk a transaction in the US, because of litigation concerns that could stem from existing lawsuits against other oil firms for their role in climate change.
The Financial Times earlier this week reported that a London listing would only happen in 2019 at the earliest and Reuters reported that the kingdom is now focusing on a listing on the local exchange, known as Tadawul.
An Aramco IPO was initially slated for 2018 but plans were delayed at least partly because of discussions over where the massive listing should take place.
At the same time, Saudi Arabia is also counting on being awarded emerging market status by index complier MSCI in June. Experts say that this would help the country attract Western investment and could also be an incentive not to pursue an international listing.
Beyond London and New York, Reuters reported that Hong Kong is increasingly emerging as a likely compromise because Riyadh is keen to support Asian nations that could become important investors in the kingdom’s economy.
The listing of Saudi Aramco forms a key part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plan to modernise the economy, a programme referred to as Vision 2030.