Saudi Aramco IPO to signal Saudi openness

Khalid al-Falih, chairman of Saudi state oil giant Aramco, addresses the 10th Global Competitiveness Forum on January 25, 2016, in the capital Riyadh. The an annual event brings together high-ranking Saudi officials and world business leaders.

Saudi Aramco Chairman Khalid al-Falih at the Global Competitiveness Forum in Riyadh on 25 January.

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Chairman of Saudi Aramco Khalid al-Falih said today that plans for a possible initial public offering are not being driven by a need for cash amid a global slump in oil prices, but instead signal a desire for greater openness to outside investors.

Al-Falih told the 9th Global Competitiveness Forum in Riyadh that the potential listing of the world’s largest oil producer “is not for cash” but a “sign of the times” that the kingdom is open for business.

“If we do it, the percentage will not be such that it’s going to move the needle significantly in terms of the government proceeds,” Al-Falih said, a reference to the potential listing.

He said that despite oil prices recently dipping below $30 a barrel, Saudi Aramco’s investments in oil and gas have not slowed down.

Earlier, Al-Falih told the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel that any initial public offering of Saudi Aramco would not include the kingdom’s oil reserves.

Talking to reporters at the GCF, al-Falih said excessively high oil prices “precipitated” the current slump since “everybody wanted to contribute to supply more than the demand that was coming in.”

He said Saudi Arabia has the scale and capability to sustain the current slump in prices for “a long, long time” but that “obviously, we don’t wish for lower prices.”

“The fact that the crown jewel of the kingdom … the company that has been generating the predominant income to the treasury of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is being considered to be taken to the stock market, I think is a sign of the confidence the kingdom has in its enterprises,” Al-Falih said.