Speculation grows over chances of snagging Saudi Aramco IPO

Saudi Aramco is likely planning an IPO for next year, estimated to be US$100 billion (S$141 billion), and is looking at the possibility of listing on more than one exchange. Singapore is reportedly studying proposals, including inviting one of its st
Saudi Aramco is likely planning an IPO for next year, estimated to be US$100 billion (S$141 billion), and is looking at the possibility of listing on more than one exchange. Singapore is reportedly studying proposals, including inviting one of its state investment companies to become a cornerstone investor in Aramco's IPO.PHOTO: REUTERS

Observers say political stability here may help SGX land world's largest initial public offering

As a month-long Asia tour by Saudi King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud gets under way, speculation is growing over whether Singapore can grab a piece of the world's largest initial public offering - by energy giant Saudi Aramco.

The Republic is Asia's largest oil trading centre.

This week, as part of the King's tour, Saudi Aramco announced a US$7 billion (S$9.87 billion) deal to buy a stake in a Johor refinery.

The Straits Times understands that Saudi stock exchange representatives are in Singapore.

The Singapore Exchange (SGX) declined to comment when asked if the exchange's officials are meeting with King Salman while he is on tour in the region with his 1,500-member entourage.

London, New York, Tokyo and Toronto are said to be among the contenders for the coveted IPO. Singapore, too, has thrown its hat in the ring. The Republic's political stability is an attractive quality, especially as Saudi Arabia seeks to hedge against growing uncertainty in Europe and an unpredictable United States government.

Saudi Aramco is likely planning an IPO for next year, estimated to be US$100 billion, and is looking at the possibility of listing on more than one exchange.

London, New York, Tokyo and Toronto are said to be among the contenders for the coveted IPO. Singapore, too, has thrown its hat in the ring.

The Republic's political stability is an attractive quality, especially as Saudi Arabia seeks to hedge against growing uncertainty in Europe and an unpredictable United States government, market observers say.

Singapore Exchange chief executive Loh Boon Chye visited the kingdom late last year to pitch a listing by Saudi Aramco on the bourse, Bloomberg said.

Singapore is reportedly studying proposals, including inviting one of its state investment companies to be a cornerstone investor in Aramco's IPO. When asked about this yesterday, GIC and Temasek Holdings declined to comment on whether they had been approached to be cornerstone investors.

The kingdom is also hoping to attract foreign investment in this region, and is pushing to diversify its economy beyond oil in the wake of the oil rout that sent crude prices slumping from US$100 levels to as low as around US$27 last January before recovering to current US$55 levels.

Saudi Aramco has announced it is buying a 50 per cent equity stake in Petronas' refining and petrochemical project in Johor for US$7 billion.

People familiar with the Johor project say Saudi Aramco is interested in "going downstream into the refining part of the business" and feeding the Asian market, one of the biggest consumers of refined product.

As such, it will be investing more in refining assets worldwide.

Officials in Malaysia have said previously that the Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (Rapid) project aims to ride on Singapore's position as an international oil and gas trading hub.

Singapore is the largest oil trading hub after New York and London, and is also emerging as the region's LNG trading hub.

In Saudi Arabia, Singapore firms are active and stepping up in areas such as oil and gas, energy management, water desalination, as well as transport and logistics, said Mr G. Jayakrishnan, group director for Middle East & Africa, trade agency IE Singapore.

To that end, the agency is working closely with them to identify local partners and follow through on the projects, which typically have long gestation periods, he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2017, with the headline 'Speculation grows over chances of snagging Saudi Aramco IPO'. Print Edition | Subscribe