Saudi Arabia mulls over listing of state oil giant

LONDON • The world's biggest crude exporter is considering selling a stake in its state-owned company, which controls more than a tenth of the global oil market.

A potential initial public offering (IPO) is under review for Saudi Arabian Oil Co, also known as Aramco, said the kingdom's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

A decision will probably be taken in the next few months, he said in an interview with The Economist, without giving further details.

"Personally I'm enthusiastic about this step," the Prince said. "I believe it is in the interest of the Saudi market, and it is in the interest of Aramco" by helping to promote transparency and counter corruption.

Aramco could rival Apple as the world's biggest listed company. 

Aramco is solely responsible for tapping the world's second-largest crude reserves, with production double that of its nearest rival. The company is one of the key players in balancing the oil market and its investment decisions have the potential to move crude prices and affect economies around the world.

Saudi Aramco officials were not immediately able to comment on IPO plans. 

The company has previous experience listing a business - in 2008, it floated a subsidiary called Rabigh Refining and Petrochemical in the local stock market.

The refinery, which processes 400,000 barrels a day, has a market capitalisation of US$2.3 billion (S$3.3 billion).

Saudi officials believe Aramco could be worth "trillions of dollars", according to The Economist. Aramco controls more than 10 times the oil reserves held by Exxon Mobil, which has a market value of US$319 billion.

Opening Aramco up to investors would be the most dramatic change in the kingdom's economic policy since it started nationalisation in the 1970s, with Prince Mohammed comparing his plans to Margaret Thatcher's shake-up of the British economy in the 1980s.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2016, with the headline 'Saudi Arabia mulls over listing of state oil giant'. Print Edition | Subscribe