The Riyadh-based newspaper Al Eqtisadiah retracted a story saying Saudi Arabia is planning to sell almost half of Saudi Arabian Oil Co (Aramco), the world’s largest oil company.
The stake that the government plans to sell and the time frame of the sale are different than what was mentioned in the story published on Saturday, Al Eqtisadiah said in a statement published yesterday.
The story, which cited an unidentified government official, contained a number of other errors, the newspaper said.
“Al Eqtisadiah apologizes to its readers, and wishes that all media outlets that cited the story to publish this apology and clarification,” the newspaper said.
It is to start an investigation into how the mistaken information was published, the newspaper said.
The newspaper had reported that the government would sell close to half of the state-owned enterprise during the next 10 years.
Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in April that an initial public offering is planned for 2018, or even a year earlier, with the country planning to sell less than 5 percent.
Aramco’s privatization is part of the Saudi Vision 2030, not the National Transformation Program 2020, the newspaper said.
Saudi Arabia, under pressure from lower crude prices, has been planning the share sale as part of an effort to generate revenue and reform its economy.
The government relies heavily on oil sales for revenue, and its finances have taken a blow since prices started tumbling in 2014. Total projected revenue this year, at 528 billion riyals (US$140.72 billion), is less than half what it collected in 2013.
Taking a company as large as Aramco to the market might pose challenges for Saudi Arabia.
“If I were in Chinese leadership, I would want to buy Saudi Aramco,” said Paul Sullivan, a professor of security studies at Georgetown University in Washington, in an e-mail on Saturday. “What a great way to lock in oil contracts from a massive source of energy for an energy import-dependent country.”
What is even more important than selling Aramco is how the nation uses the funds for investment, he said.
“It is like they have this huge inheritance,” he said. “If they waste it then that is that.”
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