Saudi Aramco to be world's most valuable firm after IPO next week

Saudi Aramco is poised to achieve the biggest initial public offering in history next week by raising $25.7bn for the Saudi state in its market debut.

The state-owned oil business will emerge as the world’s most valuable listed company after reportedly valuing its shares at 32 riyals ($8.53) apiece before its float on Riyadh’s stock exchange next week.

At this price the mega-float would exceed the record $25bn debut of Chinese online retailer Alibaba to make Aramco’s IPO the biggest in history.

The listing would also topple tech giant Apple as the world’s most valuable listed company by valuing Aramco’s total market worth at $1.7tn. Apple is valued at $1.17tn.

Aramco is expected to confirm the reported price of its shares late on Thursday before the start of trading on 12 December.

The record-breaking market listing is towards the higher end of Aramco’s recent expectations but it still falls well short of the ambition of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to value the country’s economic crown jewels at $2tn.

The prince revealed plans to sell a stake of the world’s most profitable company in 2016 as part of his plan to modernise the Saudi economy, but the IPO’s ambition has been steadily scaled back in recent months.

Aramco plans to list just 1.5% of the company on the local Tadawul stock exchange after marketing the float almost exclusively to investors in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.

It was originally expected to sell around 5% through a dual-listing on the local market and on a major international stock exchange.

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The IPO lost the support of international investors, which are sceptical of the company’s valuation. Investors are also wary of Aramco’s close ties to the Saudi regime, which is embroiled in geopolitical conflict and whose behaviour has raised human rights concerns.

Among local investors demand for Aramco shares was almost three times oversubscribed after the Saudi government encouraged Middle Eastern investors and wealthy Saudi families to support the IPO.



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