HKEX chief says talks to win Saudi Aramco listing 'will never stop'

HONG KONG • Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing (HKEX) is still in talks with oil giant Saudi Aramco, with the bourse's planned IPO investment link with China key to clinching the potential listing, chief executive Charles Li said yesterday.

In February, Mr Li said the stock exchange would bank on its role as a gateway to mainland China's deep-pocketed investors to win the coveted listing of state oil firm Saudi Arabian Oil.

Addressing a Reuters Newsmaker event, Mr Li, who has previously worked with JPMorgan and Bank of America Merrill Lynch in China, said "the talks will never stop" in trying to woo Aramco, with China now one of the largest importers of Saudi crude.

But Mr Li said a so-called primary stock connect, which would allow mainland Chinese investors to participate in Hong Kong initial public offerings (IPOs), would be pivotal in convincing Aramco to list in the Asian financial hub. He did not give a timeline for the start of the primary connect programme, the talks for which are ongoing.

The Saudi authorities plan to list up to 5 per cent of the world's largest oil producer on the Saudi stock exchange, the Tadawul, in Riyadh and also one or more international markets, potentially raising as much as US$100 billion (S$135.6 billion).

Saudi Arabia favours New York for the main foreign listing, even though some financial and legal advisers have recommended London as a less problematic and risky option, sources said last month.

HKEX started public consultation in June on the possibility of a board allowing listings of companies with dual-class share structures, such as Alibaba Group Holding.

Asia's third-biggest equity bourse by market value is eager to increase its exposure to new, high-growth sectors to remain among the world's top destinations to list shares.

Public consultation for the new board ended last month, with financial industry professionals still divided over the matter.

Mr Li said there might be a need for another round of consultation to decide how the new board and weighted voting rights would be implemented.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2017, with the headline 'HKEX chief says talks to win Saudi Aramco listing 'will never stop''. Print Edition | Subscribe