Saudi Aramco shares jump maximum 10% on market debut

Saudi Arabian Oil Co raised a record US$25.6 billion in its IPO last week. PHOTO: REUTERS

RIYADH (REUTERS) - Saudi Aramco shares surged the maximum permitted 10 per cent above their initial public offering (IPO) price on their Riyadh stock market debut on Wednesday (Dec 11), closing in on the US$2 trillion (S$2.7 trillion) valuation long sought by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The shares leapt to 35.2 riyal (S$12.75) each, up from the IPO price of 32 riyals and at the daily limit of price moves allowed by the Tadawul exchange.

That gives the state-owned oil giant a market value of about US$1.88 trillion, comfortably making it the world's most valuable listed company, although it will have one of the smallest "free floats" of publicly tradeable shares, at just 1.5 per cent.

Saudi Arabian Oil Co (Aramco) raised a record US$25.6 billion in its IPO last week, giving it a market value of around US$1.7 trillion.

The flotation, a major challenge for the Riyadh stock exchange, propels the bourse into the world's top 10 by value of listed companies.

Saudi Arabia relied on mainly domestic and regional investors to buy Aramco shares after lukewarm interest from abroad.

The US$25.6 billion of proceeds beat Chinese tech firm Alibaba's US$25 billion listing in 2014.

"This is a successful IPO and the Aramco listing will add depth to the local market by providing exposure to a vital sector of Saudi Arabia's economy," said Bassel Khatoun, managing director, frontier and MENA at Franklin Templeton Emerging Markets Equity.

"We are hopeful that Saudi Aramco uses the Tadawul listing as a springboard to an eventual international listing."


Aramco shares began trading half an hour after the market open as the Saudi bourse allowed extra time for the "opening auction" period when investors place their bids, in anticipation of high levels of activity.

Aramco will have the second-biggest weighting on the Tadawul index of 9.7 per cent, according to Al Rajhi Capital. Al Rajhi Bank has the biggest weighting at 14.6 per cent due to its larger free float.

Earlier this month, Tadawul introduced an index weighting cap of 15 per cent to address concerns about the potential impact of Aramco's flotation and limit the index's correlation to the oil price.

Aramco's debut comes as oil prices are being supported by a Saudi-orchestrated move by Opec and oil-producing allies to commit to some of the industry's deepest output cuts in a decade to try to avert oversupply.

Aramco's listing also comes nearly four years after Prince Mohammed unveiled his plan to sell a portion of the world's most profitable company to raise funds to help diversify the kingdom away from oil.

But Riyadh scaled back its global ambitions by only listing Aramco on the Tadawul and cancelling roadshows in New York and London due to muted interest from foreign investors.

Most actively managed funds said they would likely steer clear of the IPO, citing concerns about governance, the environment and regional geopolitics, according to information provided to Reuters by 26 major asset managers outside the Gulf region.

If Aramco shares gain 10 per cent on both Wednesday and Thursday, it will exceed the US$2 trillion valuation coveted by Prince Mohammed. The company is expected to be included in the MSCI emerging markets index on Dec 17.

Saudi energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, told Reuters last week he believed Aramco was worth more than its US$1.7 trillion IPO valuation. "I cannot wait to see the faces of people who missed that opportunity and how they will be chewing their thumbs," the minister said, calling those who invested "friends and family" set to benefit from any future rise in its value.

Aramco has not named its investors during the IPO process, but sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) and Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) were among Gulf sovereign funds to buy shares.

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