Sat, Dec 07, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Saudi Aramco raises US$25.6bn in IPO

MIGHT BE MORE:Goldman Sachs has a greenshoe option of 450m shares, which, if exercised, could lift the proceeds from the initial public offering to US$29.4 billion


Saudi Aramco raised US$25.6 billion from the world’s biggest initial public offering (IPO), closing a deal that became synonymous with the kingdom’s crown prince and his plans to reshape the nation.

The state-owned oil giant set the final price of its shares at 32 riyals (US$8.53), valuing the world’s most profitable company at US$1.7 trillion. It received total bids of US$119 billion.

For Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, pulling off the sale could help get his ambitious plan to overhaul the economy back on track. It has been derailed by problems at home, including the backlash against his purge of the elite, and abroad by the outrage over the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and the war in Yemen.

However, the deal ended up being very different from what the prince had envisaged when he first floated the idea in 2016 with an ambition to raise as much as US$100 billion. Aramco offered just 1.5 percent of its shares and opted for a local listing after global investors balked at its hopes of valuing the company at US$2 trillion.

Instead, Aramco relied heavily on local investors and funds from neighboring Gulf Arab monarchies.

In the offering for individuals, almost 5 million people applied for shares. The institutional tranche closed on Wednesday and attracted bids totaling 397 billion riyals.

The kingdom’s richest families, some of whom had members detained in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel during a so-called corruption crackdown in 2017, are expected to have made significant contributions. Global banks working on the deal were sidelined after Saudi Arabia decided to focus on selling the shares to local and regional investors.

Still, Aramco will become the world’s most valuable publicly traded company once it starts trading, overtaking Microsoft Corp and Apple Inc. The pricing was at the top of the marketed range of 30 to 32 riyals. The mean valuation estimate from institutional investors surveyed by Sanford C. Bernstein & Co was for US$1.26 trillion, it said in a note on Thursday.

The deal opens up one of the world’s most secretive companies, whose profits helped bankroll the kingdom and its ruling family for decades, to investors and Saudi individuals. Until this year, Aramco had never published financial statements or borrowed in international debt markets.

It will also mean the company now has shareholders other than the Saudi Arabian government for the first time since it was nationalized in the late 1970s.

Saudi Arabia had been pulling out all the stops to ensure that the IPO is a success. It cut the tax rate for Aramco three times, promised the world’s largest dividend and offered bonus shares for retail investors who keep hold of the stock.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc, acting as share stabilizing manager, has the right to exercise a so-called greenshoe option of 450 million shares. The purchase option can be executed in whole or in part at any time on or before 30 calendar days after the trading debut. It could increase the IPO proceeds to US$29.4 billion.

Funds from the sale are to be transferred to the Public Investment Fund, which has been making a number of bold investments, plowing US$45 billion into SoftBank Corp’s Vision Fund, taking a US$3.5 billion stake in Uber Technologies Inc and planning a US$500 billion futuristic city.

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