November 1, 2019 / 8:35 PM / 20 days ago

Saudi Crown Prince approves announcement of Aramco IPO on Sunday - sources

DUBAI/RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Friday agreed that the initial public offering of state oil giant Aramco will be announced on Sunday, five sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 14, 2019. Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool via REUTERS

The world’s top oil company will announce its intention to float (ITF) on Nov. 3, the sources added.

“The crown prince finally gave the green light,” one source said.

Aramco declined to comment.

Saudi Aramco officials and advisers have held last-minute meetings with investors over the past few days in an attempt to achieve as close to a $2 trillion valuation as possible ahead of an expected listing launch on Sunday, according to sources.

The final meeting by the Saudi government on Friday evening was to decide whether to go ahead with the listing.

Although Crown Prince Mohammed put a $2 trillion valuation on the company in early 2016, bankers and company insiders say Aramco’s value is closer to $1.5 trillion.

At that price, Aramco would still be worth at least 50% more than the world’s most valuable companies, Microsoft and Apple, which each have a market capitalisation of around $1 trillion.

Riyadh is looking to list a 1%-2% stake on the Saudi stock market to raise at least $20 billion-$40 billion.

If the deal exceeds $25 billion, Aramco will become the biggest IPO in the world, topping Alibaba’s $25 billion IPO in 2014.

The listing is the centrepiece of the crown prince’s plan to shake up the Saudi economy and diversify away from oil. But there have been various delays since it was first announced in 2016.

Prince Mohammed wants to eventually list a total of 5% of the company. An international sale is expected to follow the domestic IPO.

Analysts’ meetings with top institutional investors are likely to begin on Sunday, another source said.

The state-owned oil major has also approached governments in the Gulf and Asia, including China, to try to secure the bulk of the investment from countries on friendly terms with Saudi Arabia, as the reception elsewhere has been cooler, sources have previously said.

Reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh and Marwa Rashad and Rania El Gamal; additional reporting by Saeed Azhar, Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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